The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), CBI and TUC have today (Friday) issued an unprecedented joint call for employers to ensure safe working conditions during the coronavirus outbreak.
The statement says that if companies remain open they must take practical steps to minimise the threat of workers being exposed to the virus wherever possible – including enabling social distancing.
The statement warns that if employers do not comply with the latest Public Health England guidance they face being hit with enforcement notices and potential closure.
The joint appeal also encourages workers to raise any concerns about working conditions first with their employer or trade union. And it notes that if concerns can’t be resolved locally, workers can approach the Health and Safety Executive or their local authority for help.
CBI Deputy Director General Josh Hardie said:
“Businesses are stepping up to the mark in these incredibly challenging times.
“Keeping staff safe must be their number one priority, as they also keep the wheels of daily life and the economy spinning.
“The vast majority of firms are doing the very best they can in protecting their staff where premises remain open. The layout of some workplaces can make this incredibly difficult, but all efforts must be made to follow social distancing guidelines wherever they can.”
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“We all want businesses to get through this crisis and keep people in their jobs. But this must not come at the cost of safe working conditions.
“Employers and unions have a crucial role to play in stopping the spread of the virus, protecting our NHS and saving lives.
“Many employers are doing the right thing. But no-one going into work should have to endanger their own health and put their families and the wider community at risk. Those companies who refuse to follow the rules must face the threat of closure.”
The full statement reads:
This is an extremely worrying time for firms and workers. We know many workers, union reps and employers have questions and concerns about safe working – especially for those continuing to work away from home.
This joint statement between the Health and Safety Executive, the TUC and the CBI is intended to clarify the position. The health and safety of workers remains paramount. Employers are and must continue to provide workers with information about risks to their health and the actions their employers must take.
Social distancing is a key public health measure introduced by Public Health England to reduce the spread of infection. Most employers are going to great lengths to ensure social distancing wherever possible. The HSE, CBI and TUC wish to publicly support these efforts. Firms that can safely stay open and support livelihoods should not be forced to close by misunderstandings about government guidance.
But If it comes to the HSE’s attention that employers are not complying with the relevant Public Health England guidance (including enabling social distancing where it is practical to do so), HSE will consider a range of actions ranging from providing specific advice to employers through to issuing enforcement notices, including prohibition notices.
Where a worker has a genuine concern about health and safety which cannot be resolved through speaking with their employer or trade union, they should contact the relevant enforcement agency – either their local authority, or the HSE through https://www.hse.gov.uk/contact/concerns.htm.
For firms who are unsure about the guidance, please visit https://www.hse.gov.uk/news/social-distancing-coronavirus.htm and https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/guidance-for-employers-and-businesses-on-coronavirus-covid-19
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