- 20th August 2020
- Posted by: PMAN Consulting
- Category: H&S Consultancy
For as long as the threat of infection from Covid-19 remains, businesses will have to perform a balancing act between safeguarding the health risks employees face in the workplace from potential exposure to the virus and the safety risks that new working practices may present to employees and to others.
On 10 May 2020, the UK government made it clear that people should be getting back to work if their employer isn’t on the list of businesses that must remain closed and if they are unable to work from home. It is for employers to ensure that people can work safely.
Businesses will have to review and assess what the risks to employees and others will be from a return to work. The Department for Business has set up a number of working groups, and has now published guidance for various sectors. There is also much to be learned from the adaptations to working practices already made by businesses which have stayed open during lockdown.
General employer health and safety duties
PMANs Managing Director has been the Chairman of Oadby Plastics COVID Taskforce since the outbreak began, with several sites, a large warehouse and fabrication facility, based in Leicester has proved challenging. But with a clear taskforce all pulling together ensure a slick and effective response, ensuring the business could maintain the supply of key infrastructure customers.
Employers have clear legal duties under health and safety law. There are three overlapping general obligations:
- duty to protect the health, as well as safety, of their employees
- duty to protect others who may be exposed to health risks as a result of the employer’s activities, including members of the public, service users and contractors
- duty to manage the health and safety risks from workplaces under the employer’s control, which includes the means of access to the workplace and any plant such as lifts and air conditioning systems. The extent of the duty depends on the level of control.
The duty is to do everything “reasonably practicable” to manage these risks. The onus of demonstrating that everything reasonably practicable has been done falls to the employer. The best way to demonstrate compliance with the law is usually to follow government and industry-led guidance wherever possible.
Specific employer health and safety duties
Employers have specific legal duties which might be relevant to the return to work process, including:
- management of health and safety including risk assessment, safe systems of work and providing information, instruction, supervision and training to employees;
- the provision and use of PPE;
- the safe use of equipment and machinery at work;
- management of the workplace, including cleanliness, ventilation, sufficient space, toilet and wash facilities and safe pedestrian routes;
- the use of chemicals and substances hazardous to health, and managing the risks posed by biological agents such as Covid-19
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If you need any help getting your business in shape, to cope with Convid-19, please get in touch on 0115 9653679.