HSE accused of being an ‘absentee regulator’
This article by Tina Weadick is is reproduced courtesy of Health & Safety Review
As debate continues in Ireland over the HSA’s Covid-19 role, both on the reporting of workplace cases and unannounced visits to workplaces, the performance of the regulator’s UK counterpart is under similar scrutiny.
A recent report by the union-backed magazine Hazards heavily criticised the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for its “worrying lack of on-the-ground intelligence” regarding Covid-19 in workplaces and “shocking failure” to carry out inspections.
Analysing the HSE’s performance during the pandemic between April and end of June, the report found that the HSE, despite having received thousands of reports from concerned workers, remained largely “unaware” of outbreaks and failed to undertake either inspections or enforcement action for breaches of Covid-19safety rules.
Echoing the findings of a similar report by a Select Committee of MPs issued in June (see HSR July/August), the Hazards report noted that the spot checks ordered by Prime Minister Boris Johnson back in May were still mostly being conducted over the phone.
When challenged by Hazards magazine over the findings, the HSE confirmed it had not closed a single workplace for Covid-19 breaches and, as of early July, it had issued only “around a dozen” enforcement notices in relation to same. According to Hazards, HSE records show that it has yet to take enforcement action in any of these cases.
The report concluded: “[This] is not just about resources. It is about an abdication of responsibility. Throughout Covid-19, the HSE has been little more than a third-tier player in a Public Health England and government show. The absentee regulator isn’t just hurting workers. It is doing itself no favours at all.”
Hazards is also sceptical about the figures published by the HSE on the number of Covid-19 case notifications it has received. (Unlike in Ireland, cases of the disease diagnosed in workers are reportable to the regulator where there is reasonable evidence to suggest they were caused by occupational exposure.)
The latest available figures, which are updated monthly on the HSE’s website, show that, up to the week ending 8 August, 8,666 cases of the disease had been notified to the HSE and Local Authorities, including 125 death notifications. Most reports received related to workers in the health and social work sector.
This article is reproduced courtesy of Health & Safety Review.
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