News

COVID-19 advice
Published: 06 Apr 2020

Here at Cedrec we have received many queries in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and compliance with health and safety legislation.

In order to help you all out, we've put together this In Focus to address some of your main areas of concern, and provide links to useful guidance on Government and relevant agency websites.

This In Focus will cover:

We'll also keep this page updated as things progress.

Does health and safety law still apply?

Now more than ever, the health, safety and well-being of employees should be paramount.

The employer's duty of care under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 is arguably more important in this current crisis than it ever has been before, not only to ensure the health and safety of their employees directly, but also because of the potential impact it can have on their families and loved ones.

This means that health and safety legislation still applies as it did prior to the outbreak.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have issued a joint statement alongside the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Confederation of British industry (CBI), in order to express their regulatory position in relation to the current COVID-19 pandemic. They have stressed the importance of maintaining the health and safety of workers, and enforcement action that they will pursue in light of organisations breaching guidance of Public Health England on social distancing.

There will be some derogations and exemptions to this which will be provided for by either the Government or agencies like the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSE NI) or Environment Agency.

Derogations and exemptions

Unless specifically stated in Government or a relevant agencies guidance that there is a derogation or exemption to the law due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the law will continue to apply as it always has done.

These are current derogations and exemptions that have been published so far:

Risk assessments

Due to the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace, employers need to continue to make sure that an appropriate assessment of the risk is carried out and measures put in place in line with current Government advice.

Control measures will depend on the level of risk and type of workplace and should not reduce the level of protection afforded by existing measures. For example, keeping fire doors open to reduce touching potentially contaminated door handles may seem like a sensible idea, but it creates increased risk. Instead, appropriate regular cleaning and advice on hand hygiene is more appropriate.

Remember to communicate these new measures put in place to all relevant employees and others at the place of work.

If any work needs to be carried out at locations outside of the employer’s workplace, employees should:

  • comply with site rules;
  • take into account the Government guidance on good hygiene practices and social distancing;
  • consider any other persons who may be affected by their work. 

For the most up-to-date COVID-19 guidance for businesses in your country, see the links in the Useful Sites section of this In Focus.

Social distancing

One of the main areas of concern we've had from our customers is regards to maintaining social distancing in the workplace. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to work from home and particularly in workplaces where their job roles make them key workers, a lot of you have been asking if the two metre social distance measure announced by the Government is mandatory in the workplace.

So for businesses we advise that you review your risk assessments in line with the advice on social distancing and consider safe working practices. If a task is critical and must be carried out, can it be undertaken in a different way that allows for social distancing and employee/contractor safety, or are there other measures you can implement to reduce and control the risk.

Certain work tasks will make a two metre distancing between employees difficult. Government guidance says that "where possible, maintain a two metre distance from others". 

Remember to check if you have contractors on-site, what additional safety measures are in place for them.

In Wales the Government have went one step further and announced legislation applying the two metre social distancing rule to any workplace in attempts to protect workers from the virus.

All businesses will have to take all reasonable measures to ensure the two metre rule is maintained between people on their premises whenever work is being carried out. This rule also applies to work at homes, where work and repairs are being carried out, and any work in outdoor spaces.

For more information, see:

Homeworking

Ideally, if you can work from home, then you should.

Remember as an employer your duty of care still extends to employees when they are working from home.

The HSE have a specific page on protecting home workers.

In relation to display screen equipment assessments, the HSE say that those working from home on a long term basis must have a workstation assessment.

Those working from home temporarily are not an increased risk, so employers in this instance do not need to do home workstation assessments. With many of us now working from home on a temporary basis, we are also aware that we may be doing so for months to come, however there is currently no further guidance as to what constitutes working form home on a long term basis when the requirement for a DSE assessment would kick in.

We have a specific In Focus covering this topic, Homeworking and COVID-19.

This provides information on:

  • things to consider;
  • flexibility;
  • remote and home working without supervision;
  • equipment and technology; and
  • stress and mental health.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Requirements for any additional PPE will be informed by a revision of your risk assessments. Current guidance only requires social distancing and hygiene measures for hand washing or sanitising.

Some job roles may require additional PPE as a control measure identified in a risk assessment. Where this is the case it is important to ensure these are suitable and appropriate for the task and do not increase the overall risk to the employee.

For more information, see:

Where additional PPE has been used and it may have been contaminated with the virus, there is additional guidance that covers the dipsosal of such PPE:

The Environment Agency have also issued a temporary exemption in a regulatory position statement:

If you do decide to use disposable PPE as an extra precaution, you should adhere to the following Government advice for disposal of it:

  • double bag the PPE;
  • leave it for 72 hours; and
  • dispose of it in the normal waste stream.

For more information, see:

Statutory testing and inspections

Many businesses will have upcoming equipment inspection deadlines, thorough examinations and planned maintenance and are uncertain about what to do in such circumstances. 

Currently there are no exemptions or relaxation of the requirements on inspections for work equipment, statutory inspections and maintenance.

Employers legal duties remain in place as a failure to undertake inspections can significantly increase the risk of harm to workers and members of the public. Under certain circumstances with the agreement of a suitable competent person, some legislation allows the postponement of examinations and statutory inspections, but the duty-holder is still responsible for ensuring the equipment is safe to use.

The HSE have issued a statement to clarify the duties of employers at this time, see:

RIDDOR reporting

There is no statutory requirement to report cases of COVID-19 in the workplace under RIDDOR (the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations), unless there is a direct link between an employee’s work and contracting COVID-19.

Examples of this would include:

  • health care workers who are diagnosed with COVID-19 after treating patients with COVID-19 - they would need to report an exposure of a biological agent;
  • a lab worker accidentally smashing a glass vial containing coronavirus, leading to people being exposed - they would need to report a dangerous occurrence.

The HSE have a specific page on RIDDOR reporting of COVID-19.

Useful Sites

England

Wales

Scotland

Northern Ireland

Other

Cedrec and COVID-19
Published: 20 Mar 2020

In these uncertain times, we feel its right to let you all know what we're doing here at Cedrec in light of the on-going development of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The health and wellbeing of our staff is the most important thing. So we have made sure that we follow the Government's advice, and as of today, everyone at Cedrec will be working from home until further notice.

Business as usual

We wanted to reassure you that you won't see any disruption in our services.

Our Writers are still writing, our Consultants are still consulting and our customer care and sales teams are still...well, available to help you with anything you need!

Also, our phone system and all our phone numbers are working as normal, so if you have a point of contact you can ring though and speak to them. Any general queries you may have will be forwarded, as they always are, to the right person.

Our Consultancy services

If you've contacted us about Registers of legislation or Aspects and Impacts, our Consultants can work through everything with you over the phone and email your reports to you as we would normally.

Any site visits that may be necessary for us to get a better look at things are postponed for now, and we'll pick them up again when Government advice changes and things are back to "normal."

So if you had one booked in with us, or wanted one, don't worry you won't miss out! We'll make sure you get one later.

Training courses

All of our Recharge Courses and our Environmental and Safety Manager courses are unavailable until July. We'll review the situation then, in line with Government advice, and hopefully be able to start offering them again.

Monthly online demos

Our monthly online demos of Cedrec will continue as normal, albeit potentially from someone's kitchen!

You can book onto those as normal here.

Stay safe!

So there you go. Whether you're in the office or working from home, Cedrec is still there to keep you updated!

As usual, if you need anything, or we can help in any way, just drop us a line.

SEPA's COVID-19 response
Published: 06 Apr 2020

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) have clarified that their focus during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will be on "protecting our environment, our communities and our people."

Protecting Scotland's environment and communities

SEPA will help regulated businesses adjust to these extraordinary circumstances, which are constraining everyone's capacity and resources.

Efforts will be prioritised on those regulated sectors that are crucial to the functioning of society during this public health emergency, and will work with businesses from other sectors as much as possible.

Scotland's communities will be protected through vital flood forecasting and warning services.

Protecting people

SEPA are firmly focused on supporting the people of Scotland throughout the public health emergency and beyond.

The majority of their workforce have moved to working from home, but SEPA aim to continue to protect and enhance Scotland’s environment by:

  • attending significant environmental incidents;
  • focusing restricted field work on issues of highest environmental risk;
  • maintaining a gauging network to support the flood forecasting and warning system;
  • use new channels and means to support regulated businesses and monitor compliance.

Contact details

Any environmental incidents can still be reported by visiting: sepa.org.uk/report

SEPA's online enquiries form also remains operational: sepa.org.uk/contact/contact-us-by-email

Environment Agency update on COVID-19
Published: 06 Apr 2020

The Environment Agency have issued a statement clarifying their operational situation, in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and have stressed that they are working hard with the Government and other emergency services to protect the public and the environment from the effects of Coronavirus.

Staffing

The Environment Agency remains fully operational, with the majority of staff working from home.

However, front line teams are active, and where necessary, on the ground tackling priority issues such as flood risk and pollution. They're making sure they follow NHS guidance to reduce their risk of contracting Coronavirus.

High-risk assets and activities have been prioritised, and field teams are maximising social distancing and working as flexibly as possible to reduce the number of face to face interactions between team members. Protective measures have been taken to safeguard kit and vehicles used for operational duties.

Regulatory role

The aim is to ensure that regulatory visits to sites that could cause serious environmental harm are still carried out.

However, regulatory visits to other sites are being reduced. This is being kept under constant review on how best to regulate them in accordance with Government guidance.

Flood defence work

The Environment Agency is reviewing flood defence schemes currently under construction to make sure staff and contractors are able to work safely while trying to meet deadlines to reduce flood risk for vulnerable communities.

The majority of such work has been identified as essential by the Government, so is able to continue with all staff trained on social distancing. If the work cannot be done safely the work will stop.

Inspections of flood risk assets damaged in Storms Ciara and Dennis are still underway using local inspectors. Work is prioritised to protect the most at-risk communities to ensure they continue to remain resilient.

If repairs to major infrastructure assets are disrupted by the impact of Coronavirus, the Agency will where possible put in place temporary mitigation for the risk, pending a full repair.

Fisheries

Following Government guidance on coronavirus, anglers are advised not to go fishing. Recreational fisheries businesses are also advised that they are subject to closure advice as set out by the Government.

The Environment Agency will continue to enforce the current Fisheries Regulations such as fishing without a licence or fishing in the close season on waters where the close season applies.

Enforcement will be subject to relevant social distancing measures.

Waterways

All owners of boats kept or used on Environment Agency managed waterways have been asked not to make any boat journeys, other than to access essential services and facilities.

It is advised that people stay at home rather than self-isolating aboard, unless your boat is your primary residence.

The Agency will not provide staff to operate locks at any lock sites, but such sites will remain open for self-service use where possible to enable those living aboard their boats to reach essential services. Where self-service is not possible, a reduced level of service will be in operation and local teams will assist boats through in exceptional circumstances.

Contact details

Any pollution incidents can still be reported on: 0800 807 060.

The Environment Agency's email address for enquiries remains operational, however due to the impact of COVID-19 there may be a delay in responses, as most staff will be working from home: enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk.

A joint statement has been issued by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Confederation of British industry (CBI), in order to express their position in relation to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

In it they stress the importance of maintaining the health and safety of workers, and enforcement action that they will pursue in light of organisations breaching guidance of Public Health England on social distancing.

They state:

"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"

For more information, see:

From Tuesday 7 April new legislation will come into force in Wales that applies the two metre social distancing rule to any workplace.

The aim of making this a legal requirement is to try and ensure workers are protected from the coronavirus.

All businesses will have to take all reasonable measures to ensure the two metre rule is maintained between people on their premises whenever work is being carried out. This rule also applies to work at homes, where work and repairs are being carried out, and any work in outdoor spaces.

The Welsh Government will issue guidance that will set out what is reasonably expected of businesses and employers.

First Minister, Mark Drakeford commented:

"We have asked people to stay at home, to save lives and protect the NHS. These temporary restrictions on gatherings and the movement of people in Wales are an important part of our efforts to help protect the public from the spread of coronavirus. These new regulations will ensure workers are safe in the workplace, by ensuring the social distancing measures we have put in place also apply in all people's places of work."

For more information, see:


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