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25/11/2020

Session Takeaways - The Evolution of H&S Legislation in the wake of Covid-19

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Session Takeaways - The Evolution of H&S Legislation in the wake of Covid-19

As part of our recent Virtual Safety Summit, we ran a number of mainstage sessions focused on some of the hot button issues in health and safety today. 

One of our most popular sessions was 'The Evolution of Health and Safety Legislation in the wake of Covid-19', featuring a panel of experts from the legal and safety fields. 

This post will bring you through some of the key discussion points from the talk, as well the results of several polls we ran throughout the talk.

 

The Panel

Our Expert panel included:

Gaving Reese Profile

Rob B Profile

Darragh G Profile

 

 

Risk Assessments

 

Quick takeaways:

  • While no new COVID-19 specific health and safety legislation has been published by the UK government, in May 2020 the HSE published the ‘Return to Work – Covid Secure Guidance’.
  • While not legally binding, companies that have not abided by regulatory guidance could be in serious risk of being found by a court as not having done everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to avoid an incident.
  • The HSENI and HSE have produced COVID-19 Risk Assessment Templates, and have encouraged businesses to publish the results of their own assessments online (this is expected of businesses with over 50 employees). 
  • Our panel highlighted the importance of consulting with employees on your COVID-19 risk assessment
  • The HSE have identified 4 issues as problem areas for inspections: see 11:20 – 12:50 on above video

We asked our audience:

"Is your business publishing their COVID-19 Risk Assessment Online?"

Yes - 44%

No - 50%

Don't Know  - 6%

 

Mental Health

 

Quick takeaways

  • Almost 1 in 5 of UK adults felt hopeless as lockdown began to ease (Mental Health Foundation research)
  • Across Great Britain, stress, depression and anxiety is the most commonly reported cause of work related ill health
  • The HSE Template Risk Assessment identifies “Risk of to Mental Health and Wellbeing affected through isolation or anxiety about Coronavirus” as a hazard
  • According to our panel, managing work related stress relies on understanding what the normal behaviours are of the people you manage, so you can recognise any changes early on
  • Our panel also mentioned those starting new jobs during the pandemic – they may feel isolated without the supports and in-person contact they would normally have

 

Vacant Buidings

 

Quick takeaways

  • Both locking down and reopening present challenges when managing a premises
  • Locking down concerns may include: Waste disposal, theft or trespassing, CCTV monitoring, (See 02:14 - 07:50 on above video)
  • Businesses should update their risk assessments to reflect a new risk profile for a locked down premises. For example, if you are maintaining a skeleton staff, can they work safely? If you keep hazardous chemicals onsite, who monitors these?
  • It may be useful to check the terms of your insurance, and you may need to inform your insurer if a property is unoccupied
  • Reopening concerns may include: Mechanical & Electrical plant may need inspections, Legionella risks, Heating, Ventillation and Air Conditioning (see 07:50 – 10:50 on above video)
  • Reopening may require you to update your risk assessment once again
  • According to our panel, it is important to recognise that normal welfare regulations have not gone away

We asked our audience:

"How is your business planning on conducting work in the future?"

Going back to the office/onsite - 17%

Those who can work from home will continue to do so - 20%

Blend of onsite/ work from home - 60%

Undecided - 3%

 

Governement Guidance

 
 

Quick takeaways

  • The HSE has adapted its advice in response to the pandemic, such as publishing its risk assessment templates
  • HSE has also adapted its guidance for RIDDOR, there are now 3 circumstances relating to COVID-19 in which an employer may be required to submit a report (see 01:25 – 06:10 on the above video)
  • There has been an evolution of advice given with respect to DSE assessments. Employers should encourage or assist employees to carry out their own checklists

 

*Please note that the above content does not constitute legal advice from Engage EHS or members of our panel
 
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