Lockdown is beginning to ease and a number of non-essential businesses and their employees and are coming back to the marketplace. Other essential businesses particularly in the food sector have been carrying on over the long lockdown period with a more limited staff, under ever greater pressures to fulfil orders, and now previously furloughed, shielded or staff working from home may start to return.
The overriding objective has been to implement precautions where possible and practical against coronavirus infection and spread. However, practical audit, maintenance and other logistical facilities and reviews may have been paused to concentrate on key functions. Companies may now be subject to further additional contractors entering site to carry out maintenance and other logistic functions. Employees and contractors may be out of practice and training on system management, they may be stressed and preoccupied with new ways of working.
The central tenants of health and safety must always be borne in mind:
- Every employer or duty holder has a legal duty, under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees.
- Every employer or duty holder also has a legal duty under the Act to carry out business in such a way as to ensure that persons not in his employment who may be affected by the business are not exposed to risks to their health or safety. This includes visiting workers such as agency workers or contractors as well as visitors.
- Every employer or duty holder is legally required, by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, to conduct a 'suitable and sufficient' assessment of the risks to the health and safety of his employees and others that arise out of all of the activities associated with the business.
- Such risk assessments must be reviewed if there is reason to suspect they are no longer valid or there has been a significant change to the matters to which the assessment relates.
The review of risk assessments and their control measures is particularly important where there may be a change in ways of operating, a time lapse in the training or absence from work of employees, or if certain control measures may be out of date; for example fire drills and audits, machinery checks etc.
A lack of regular maintenance, training or facilities that may be out of operation may invalidate insurance provisions if they were listed under the terms of the policy or a breach of safe working practices. Breaches of health and safety legislation are criminal offences that can result in a significant fine or even imprisonment.
The individual and corporate consequences of not making sure health and safety is a priority are severe; don't get caught out. Businesses need to refresh, review and record NOW.
For further information on any health and safety related matter please contact Duncan Astill on Email Duncan.Astill@mills-reeve.com or Jessica Burt on Email Jessica.Burt@mills-reeve.com