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Read what the latest Public Health guidance means for your business

The guidance appears therefore to be quite confusing. On the one hand COVID safety measures are no longer required for the majority of businesses, but on the other the guidance to self-isolate has been significantly widened. This leaves employers in a real bind as to what to do and leaves open the ongoing significant interruption to business that periods of self-isolation create. Employers will need to give thought to what, if any, other protective measures (such as screens and sanitiser) they wish to retain should they wish to insist on those suffering from a respiratory illness coming to work.

What to do if a member of staff has symptoms of a respiratory infection, including COVID-19

If a member of staff is unwell with symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as COVID-19, they should follow the guidance for people with symptoms of a respiratory infection such as COVID-19.

Employers, in accordance with their legal obligations, may wish to consider how best to support and enable their workforce to follow this guidance as far as possible.

Management of members of staff who are at risk of serious illness from COVID-19

Some workers are at a greater risk of serious illness from COVID-19, for example people who have a weakened immune system.

There is specific guidance for people whose immune system means that they are at higher risk, because they have a reduced ability to fight infections, such as COVID-19. Employers may wish to consider the needs of employees at greater risk from COVID-19, including those whose immune system means they are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

It is unclear whether there will be any specific updates to the Living with COVID plan but pulling together the various strands we now know:

 

The guidance is to be updated monthly and we will have to see what impact the loss of free mass testing and the updated self-isolation requirements will have.

Isolation Period Cut from 10 Days to 7 Days 

Fully vaccinated Covid sufferers can now cut their 10-day isolation period to seven days, it has been announced.

Under new rules, people in England can take two lateral flow tests 24 hours apart on day six and seven of their quarantine.

Self-isolation for COVID-19 cases reduced from 10 to 7 days following negative LFD tests – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Temporary change to Fit-notes

For Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), where employees go off sick on or after 10 December 2021, employers can only ask employees for proof of sickness (such as a fit note) after 28 days of sickness (including non-working days). Proof of sickness cannot be requested earlier than 28 days.
Fit notes do not have to be provided for DWP benefit claims until 27 January. This will not affect claims to benefit.
These changes are to give GP’s more time to work on the Coronavirus (Covid-19) booster programme.

Claim back Statutory Sick Pay paid to your employees due to coronavirus (COVID-19)

This scheme will be reintroduced from mid-January 2022. Further guidance will be available as soon as possible.

Claim back Statutory Sick Pay paid to your employees due to coronavirus (COVID-19) – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

The Prime Minister has announced that England will move to ‘Plan B’ in response to the rapid rise of cases of the Omicron variant.

Do office workers now need to work from home?

Anyone who can work from home is being advised to do so from Monday 13 December. The Cabinet Office guidance says that anyone who cannot work from home should continue to go into work .  This is guidance rather than law so nobody will be committing an offence by continuing to work from the office if they could have worked from home.

Note that the new guidance applies to England only – the position is different in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. In Wales, for example, working from home is already encouraged.

Does this mean the office Christmas party must be cancelled?

In answer to a question at the press conference, the Prime Minister said that Christmas parties can go ahead. This is legally correct – there are no restrictions on social events.

Ireland recently brought in restrictions in a similar way – with working from home being introduced without restrictions on social events (although social events in Ireland are now also restricted).

Are there new rules for offices if they stay open?

The Working Safely guidance on how employers can reduce the risks in their workplace has not yet been updated and there is currently no new guidance from the Health and Safety Executive.

Which settings must use NHS Covid passes?

From Wednesday 15 December, subject to parliamentary approval, the NHS App will become mandatory for entry into nightclubs and large venues – including unseated indoor events with 500 or more attendees, unseated outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees and any event with 10,000 or more attendees. In a concession to the affected industries, alternative proof (such as an email or text) of a negative lateral flow test will also be accepted. The requirements are likely to be apply only to customers, rather than staff.

What are the planned new self-isolation requirements?

Under the current law, a close contact of someone with a suspected or confirmed case of the Omicron variant is required to self-isolate regardless of vaccination status.

What is a near miss?

A near miss is defined as an event that, while not causing harm, has the potential to cause injury or ill health. Whilst near misses are usually individual events, they can also occur at the same time as accidents.  An accident should also be reported as a near miss if more people could have been injured, or injured in a different way, than the main injury occurring during an accident. Reporting both accidents and near misses are important in tackling hazardous situations that may occur when working.

Near misses should be reported and investigated as this will highlight any possible failings or gaps in current health and safety measures.  This could prevent future incidents or accidents. Including near miss reporting in your health and safety practice promotes a proactive approach to safety.  This could also in turn save money in the long run.

It can be difficult to get staff to report near-misses or minor slip accidents.  They are often seen as funny or embarrassing occurrences (until someone is hurt). It is important to create a culture which encourages reporting of these accidents.

What should you investigate?
  • When did the near miss happen?
  • What was the employee doing when the near miss happened?
  • What equipment and working areas were involved?
  • Was the person authorised to be carrying out this task/activity?
  • What caused the near miss?

Investigating near misses will allow a business to identify and implement control measures.  This will aid reducing future near misses and possible accidents. As part of the investigation, you will be able to identify immediate causes, underlying causes and root causes.  This will lead to remedial actions that may prevent this type of near miss or possible accident occurring in the future.

Legal requirements

There are legal duties for reporting and investigating both accidents and near misses. Investigations fall under The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, regulation 5.  This requires employers to plan, organise, control, monitor and review their health and safety arrangements. Investigations also ensure that an organisation is complying with the Health & Safety At Work etc Act 1974.

When to report a near miss

Near misses should be reported as soon as possible and can be reported anonymously. Investigations should also be conducted as soon as possible.  This will be subject to the magnitude of the near risk, the immediacy of any risks involved and the potential of further near misses or accidents.  People’s memories of the event will be clearer if the investigation happens straight after the event.  Motivation to enact any changes following the investigation will also be at their highest.

A good investigation will involve information gathering and anaylsing of this information which will help with identifying all causes (immediate, underlying, root). This will then lead to an action plan for implementation of control measures.  These measures need to be reasonably practicable and with realistic timescales applied to implementing them.

Providing they have the authority to do so, both near miss reporting and near miss investigation can be organised and undertaken by anyone.

Further information

For further information, consult HSG245 ‘Investigating accidents and incidents: A workbook for employers, unions, safety representatives and safety professionals’ https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/hsg245.htm

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has  released figures for 2019/20. 

The full annual workplace fatality figures can be found here.

Lowest year on record

The provisional annual data for work-related fatal accidents revealed that 111 workers were fatally injured at work between April 2019 and March 2020.  This is a rate of 0.34 deaths per 100,000 workers and, most importantly, the lowest year on record.   This represents a fall of 38 deaths from the previous year. Coronavirus impact is likely to have accentuated this fall on the economy in the final two months of the year.

In line with previous years’ fatal injury statistics, these figures do not include deaths from occupational disease. Covid-19 infection is therefore not part of these figures and will not feature in fatal injury statistics in subsequent years.

There has been a long-term reduction in the number of annual fatalities.  The number has almost halved in the last 20 years. Aside from the current fall, the number has remained broadly level in recent years.

Spread across industrial sectors

The new figures show the spread of fatal injuries across industrial sectors:

  • 40 fatal injuries to construction workers were recorded, accounting for the largest share. However, over the last five years the number has fluctuated. The annual average for the past five years is 37. The annual average rate over the last five years in construction is around 4 times as high as the all industry rate.
  • 20 fatal injuries to agricultural, forestry and fishing workers were recorded, the lowest level on record. Despite this fall, this sector continues to account for a large share of the annual fatality count. It has the highest rate of fatal injury of all the main industry sectors, around 18 times as high as the all industry rate.
  • 5 fatal injuries to waste and recycling workers were recorded. Despite being a relatively small sector in terms of employment, the annual average fatal injury rate over the last five years is around 18 times as high as the all industry rate.

The three most common causes of fatal injuries continue to be; workers falling from height (29), being struck by a moving vehicle (20) and being struck by a moving object (18).  These account for 60 per cent of fatal injuries in 2019/20.

The new figures continue to highlight the risks to older workers.  27 per cent of fatal injuries in 2019/20 were to workers aged 60 or over.  Even though such workers make up only around 10 per cent of the workforce.

Members of the public killed

In addition, members of the public continue to be killed in connection with work-connected accidents.  In 2019/20 51 members of the public were killed as a result of a work-connected accident in HSE enforced workplaces. 33 of these occurred in the Health and Social work sector.  A further 41 occurred on railways (enforced by the Office for Road and Rail).

Mesothelioma deaths

Mesothelioma, which is contracted through past exposure to asbestos and is one of the few work-related diseases where deaths can be counted directly, killed 2446 in Great Britain in 2018. This is slightly lower than the average 2550 over the previous five years.

The current figures are largely a consequence of occupational asbestos exposures that occurred before 1980. Consequently the annual mesothelioma deaths are expected to fall below current levels for years beyond 2020.

 

 

 

 

Many First Aid at Work (FAW) or Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW) qualifications have expired since the 16th March 2020.  The HSE have announced an extension to them to the 30th September 2020. This only applies to ones that have expired since 16th March.

The Resuscitation Council (UK) have issued an update about performing CPR on an adult who has suffered from cardiac arrest. Their advice  is to perform chest compression only, not to do rescue breaths. To minimise the risk to the rescuer from being exposed to COVID-19 there should be a cloth covering the casualty’s nose and mouth. Read more

Whether your business has continued with home working or been on hold, as you consider returning to the office, there are some things you need to think about. Health and Safety being one of them.

The latest government advice can be found here https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

The latest HSE advice can be found here https://www.hse.gov.uk/news/coronavirus.htm

Read more

The HSE have updated their guidance on lone working – Protecting lone workers: How to manage the risks of working alone.

This guidance explains how to keep lone workers healthy and safe. It is for anyone who employs lone workers, or engages them as contractors etc, including self-employed people or those who work alone. Read more

The HSE have redesigned their online guidance for DSE.

It now features a step-by-step guide to working safely with DSE and covers topics from workstations and assessments, to eyesight testing.

Take a look at the redesigned guidance.

Their website also has related resources including their free, downloadable publication Working with display screen equipment (DSE)

ALARP and SFAIRP

“ALARP” stands for “as low as reasonably practicable”. “SFAIRP” stands for “so far as is reasonably practicable”. The two terms mean essentially the same thing and at their core is the concept of “reasonably practicable”; this involves weighing a risk against the trouble, time and money needed to control it. Thus, ALARP describes the level to which it is expected to see workplace risks controlled. Read more