HSE COVID spot checks – What if the Inspector calls?

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HSE COVID spot checks – What if the Inspector calls?

By Anne Gardner-Aston, Principal Health and Safety Consultant

You only need to look at the latest Health and Safety Executive (HSE) social media posts to realise that much of their energy is being focused on COVID safety spot checks in workplaces. There are hundreds of these inspections going on all round the country, and so keen are the HSE to get to as many companies as possible, they are hiring associate Inspectors to boost their own numbers. Unfortunately, a good number of these inspections have highlighted problems with the management of COVID risks in the workplace and although the primary reason for doing the spot checks is to offer compliance advice, the Inspectors can take enforcement action if things are bad enough.

I’ve made an assumption that you already know the actions you should be taking to keep workplaces COVID-secure. However, what do you do if a HSE Inspector drops in to do a spot check? What paperwork will you need to produce or be able to demonstrate in terms of practical precautions? What else will they be looking at?

The first thing to say is that Inspectors are authorised to inspect any premises under health and safety law, so you have to let them in. If you try to procrastinate or prevaricate they are likely to smell a rat so it is far better to welcome them in, even if it’s not an effusive welcome! Initially, they will ask you for your COVID risk assessment – the document which will tell them the transmission and infection hazards you have identified and what you have done to control them. You have to complete this by law, and it must cover all areas of the work environment and activities.

The Inspector will then want to take a tour of your workplace and speak to some of the staff and contractors as they go round. They will be looking for physical controls like hand washing/sanitising stations, floor markings indicating two metre distancing, one way routes around the building and desk spacing’s allowing social distance. However, they will also be looking for evidence of regular hand sanitising by your staff, good ventilation, an appropriate cleaning regime, employees’ knowledge of the COVID risks and controls and information being readily available.

They may also ask about arrangements for those staff who don’t work in a fixed place, for example or those who are peripatetic such as trade operatives and care staff, and those who are working from home. If an Inspector can’t see for themselves the control measures you have in place, be prepared to be able to prove that you are complying with the law – evidence of supply and distribution of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment, for example, or processes for checking on the COVID status of people in properties that operatives or carers are visiting.

The good news is that the HSE have been very clear – they are not looking for any other workplace transgressions whilst they are doing these spot checks. Of course if they see something horrendous they are duty-bound to act, but more often than not they will offer verbal advice, if required, and leave you with a form to say they have visited.

How Pennington Choices can help…

If you are not sure about your COVID obligations, Pennington Choices have produced an e-book that covers the main points and can help with further advice, before or after a HSE visit, if required. To download the free eBook, click here.

Alternatively, should you have any questions about your COVID or health and safety obligations, please do get in touch by emailing – agardner-aston@pennington.org.uk

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