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Regulating occupational health and safety during coronavirus (COVID-19)

As Great Britain’s workplace health and safety regulator, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has maintained its regulatory functions during the pandemic and supported the response to COVID-19 by the UK Government, Devolved Administrations and businesses. HSE recognised the threat presented by COVID-19 to workers, businesses, the broader community and our people, and we have transitioned our workforce to operate remotely where possible, limited mobilisation to site and adapted our regulatory approaches accordingly.

As we move into a new phase of supporting a safe return to work across Great Britain, HSE is adjusting the focus of its activities, including visits to business premises and sites which will be conducted in line with social distancing regulations and guidelines. Our activities will continue to be guided by the specific requirements and characteristics of the sectors we regulate and in line with advice from the UK Government and Public Health Bodies.

HSE's role in test and trace

If a public health body identifies a cluster of cases in a workplace or declares a workplace pandemic, HSE will consider how it can support a public health assessment of the relevance of the workplace to the pattern of virus transmission. Normally we’ll inspect any virus transmission risk controls in the workplace and how they’ve been implemented. If HSE identifies a need to improve risk controls we’ll consider action in line with our enforcement policy.

Where a public health body identifies infection levels of concern in a community and/or a community is in local lockdown HSE will work to help understand whether workplaces are contributing to transmission. Arrangements to test, trace and track COVID-19 cases are outside of HSE’s scope. It would not be appropriate for HSE to require, for example, workers to participate in the testing scheme or to isolate following a positive test. 

HSE has written to stakeholders with guidance for public health bodies explaining HSE’s role in test and trace in more detail.

HSE’s role supporting duty holders to protect people

Duty holders continue to have obligations to comply with health and safety at work legislation and requirements to manage and control workplace risks, including protecting workers and others from the risk of COVID-19 infection in the workplace. Advice on COVID-19 will continue to be provided by our Concerns and Advice Team and up to date guidance and information will be available on or via our website.

HSE will maintain regulatory oversight of how duty holders are meeting their responsibilities in the context of the current public health risk. Our regulatory approach will continue to take proportionate account of the risks and challenges arising from the pandemic.

HSE:

  • will continue to work closely with, and across, industry sectors to enable businesses to put practical measures in place to help people get back to work safely, while remaining compliant with public health and health and safety at work requirements
  • will carry out work to check that appropriate measures are in place to protect workers from COVID-19
  • will resume targeted proactive inspection work of high-risk industries
  • will continue with, and will build on, our re-prioritised regulatory approach to key critical areas and activities in major hazard offshore oil and gas and onshore chemical, explosives and microbiological industries using remote techniques in conjunction with site visits, including conducting visits offshore
  • will continue to undertake regulatory activities which do not require site visits as normally as possible, for example Approvals and Authorisation work for biocides and pesticides, Statutory Permissioning activities such as Licensing, Safety Case / Report Assessments, Thorough Reviews, Combined Operations Notifications, Wells Notifications, Land Use Planning Applications, Hazardous Substances Consents etc
  • continue to investigate work related deaths across all industry sectors, the most serious major injuries and dangerous occurrences and reported concerns, including those related to social distancing and COVID-19. In such cases we will continue to secure compliance with the law, and conduct our investigations using a mixture of technology, without compromising the collection of evidence and our ability to secure effective control of risk, and site visits.

HSE will keep the situation under review and updates will be communicated to duty holders via website and social media channels.

Page last reviewed: 5 October 2020

Next review due: 2 November 2020

2020-10-16