Preparing for health and safety spot checks as lockdown eases

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As the country begins to emerge from lockdown and educational settings re-open, businesses that are currently closed will be looking ahead to 12 April, when it is hoped that non-essential retail and other premises will once again be able to open their doors. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), as it has done throughout the pandemic, will continue to carry out spot checks and inspections as businesses start to open up again. It is urging businesses to prepare by making sure they are Covid-secure in line with government guidance. This includes carrying out a coronavirus risk assessment and implementing appropriate control measures tailored to the specific workplace.

Spot checks and inspections will be carried out on all types of businesses across all sectors. Businesses may receive a call or a visit from the HSE, local authority or other officers authorised to carry out the checks, which may include speaking with employees. Failure to participate could lead to enforcement action and the HSE has made clear throughout the pandemic that it will not hesitate to use its wider enforcement powers to ensure the government guidance around safe working is followed.

Inspectors will want to see, for example, that social distancing is being respected or that other mitigation measures (such as Perspex screens) are in place, that workplaces are being kept clean, that employees and visitors are being encouraged to practise good hand hygiene and provided with the necessary facilities, and that premises are well ventilated. If spot inspections reveal residual risks, the HSE may simply offer advice but may also require further action to be taken, can prohibit certain activities or, in the most extreme circumstances, prosecute for a breach of health and safety legislation that can result in significant financial penalties.

The HSE recently published updated advice on ventilation and air conditioning during the pandemic. The HSE’s coronavirus guidance materials can be found here and the latest government guidance can be found here.

We will monitor and report on developments in the lead-up to 12 April as guidance is reviewed and updated and the situation evolves.

In the meantime, if you need any advice or assistance on complying with your legal health and safety obligations, please do not hesitate to contact Claire Burrows or another member of the Regulatory & Compliance team.