In Focus

COVID-19 advice
Published: 01 Jul 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:

If health and safety law still applies
Derogations and exemptions
Risk assessments
Social distancing
Homeworking
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Vulnerable workers
Statutory testing and inspections
RIDDOR reporting
Construction sector advice
COMAH sites
Manufacturing sector
Transport
Guidance on reopening some workplaces
Education establishments
Legionella risks
Gas safety
Pressure systems
NHS test and trace: workplace guidance
Useful sites

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 and the Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order SI 1978/1039 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) has issued two joint statements:

  • one joint statement alongside the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Confederation of British industry (CBI); 
  • a second joint statement with the Partnership on Health and Safety in Scotland (PHASS),

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:

There have also been a series of regulatory position statements and regulatory decisions published by each countries respective environmental regulators:

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.

The HSE's guidance on Working safely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak offers advice on risk assessments.

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 relates 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". This stance has also been backed by the HSE and seemingly the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSE NI).

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

In Wales the Government have gone 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 has a specific page on protecting home workers. The HSE NI also has a useful homeworking advice page which is informed by the HSE.

In relation to display screen equipment assessments, the HSE and HSE NI 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, or 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:

Vulnerable workers

There are certain groups of people who have been required to shield during this pandemic due to age or existing health conditions, with some individuals being described as clinically extremely vulnerable.

As greater numbers of employees return to work, it is important that employers consider the risks to workers that are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus, with additional controls being implemented to reduce the risk.

The HSE's guidance on Working safely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak offers advice on protecting vulnerable workers, including:

  • how to support shielded workers returning to work; and
  • pregnant workers.

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 has issued the following to clarify dutyholders obligations at this time, see:

The HSE NI has also produced a statement on statutory inspections, acknowledging that it may not be possible to keep equipment inspections on schedule. If this is the case, businesses remain duty bound to ensure plant is safe to use. In all cases, businesses should seek advice from a competent person responsible for maintaining and inspecting the equipment.

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 SI 2013/1471 and the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 1997/455), 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.

There are specific advice pages regarding COVID-19 and RIDDOR:

Construction sector advice

The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has issued specific advice for the construction sector for protecting the workforce during coronavirus. Version 3 of their site operating procedures is based on Public Health England guidance and intends to introduce consistent measures on construction sites of all types and sizes.

It contains advice on:

  • when to travel to work;
  • travelling to work;
  • driving at work;
  • site access and egress points;
  • hand washing;
  • toilet facilities;
  • canteens and rest areas;
  • changing facilities, showers and drying rooms;
  • work planning to avoid close working;
  • first-aid and emergency service response; and
  • cleaning.

Health and safety requirements for construction activities should not be compromised. If a task can't be carried out safely, it should not be undertaken at all.

In Northern Ireland, the Construction Employers Federation (CEF) has issued an update on safe working which largely supports and references the advice provided by the CLC in version 3 of their site operating procedures. The CEF advises:

  • using the lockdown period to adopt and implement the CLC version 3 procedures across the business;
  • maintain social distancing;
  • make detailed preparations, including return-to-site induction training for everyone on a site, site safety and welfare preparation, PPE procurement and safe transport arrangements for staff;
  • returning to work should only be considered when the above guidance has been fully and consistently applied

For more information, see:

COMAH Sites

The HSE has published a series of guidance pages for operators of major hazard establishments, COMAH sites, under the Control of Major Accident Regulations SI 2015/483. The guidance covers specific COMAH requirements during the coronavirus outbreak.

For more information, see:

Manufacturing sector

The HSE have published guidance for employers and businesses in manufacturing sectors to help explain how to continue operations or restart them safely. It helps to manage any additional risks resulting from the coronavirus outbreak. The guidance covers:

  • safe use of machinery and equipment;
  • general building safety; and
  • how to protect people from coronavirus.

For more information, see:

Transport

The Government have published specific guidance for the private and public transport sector in England to help address the risk of COVID-19 and provide safer workplaces and services.

For more information, see:

Guidance on reopening some workplaces

The Government has published guidance for employers to help them get their businesses back up and running and workplaces operating safely. 

It sets out practical steps for businesses, which is focused on five key points, and should be implemented as soon as possible:

  • work from home if you can;
  • carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment, in consultation with workers or trade unions;
  • maintain two metres social distancing, wherever possible;
  • where people cannot be two metres apart, manage transmission risk;
  • reinforcing cleaning processes.

The new guidance covers 8 workplace settings which are allowed to be open, from outdoor environments and construction sites to factories and takeaways.

For more information, see:

In addition, the HSE has produced two guides to work alongside the above guidance:

Education establishments

As schools in England are now allowed to reopen, the government have issued a series of guidance documents to provide education and childcare providers with information on safe working, with specific details on infection prevention and control as well as PPE:

Legionella risks

The HSE has reminded employers, self-employed and people in control of premises, such as landlords, to identify and control risks associated with legionella. If your building was closed or has reduced occupancy during the COVID-19 outbreak, water system stagnation can occur due to lack of use, increasing the risks of Legionnaires' disease.

You should review your risk assessment and manage the legionella risks to protect people when the water system is reinstated or returned to use. 

For more information, see:

Gas safety

The HSE has released further guidance on gas safety during the coronavirus outbreak. This covers advice for:

  • landlords, who have a legal duty to repair and maintain gas pipework, flues and appliances, do annual gas safety checks and keep a record of each safety check;
  • registered gas engineers, who must carry out work at other people's home; and
  • shielded tenants, who should minimise contact with others.

The guidance published on the Gas Safe Register website includes legal duties and example scenarios to help dutyholders in balancing the risk to the safety of the household and public presented by the gas system, with the risk to tenants’ health from coronavirus.

For more information, see:

Pressure systems

If pressure systems in the workplace haven't been used for an extended period of time because of the coronavirus pandemic, they may become unsafe.

The HSE has issued guidance on restarting workplace pressure systems. It is aimed at any employers who use pressure systems in their workplace, these may include:

  • steam boilers;
  • air compressors and receivers;
  • industrial refrigeration systems;
  • hydraulic cylinders for vehicle and passenger lifts;
  • articulated jibs,

the system could be standalone or part of a machine or process on site.

The guidance covers:

  • examination periods;
  • safety issues; and
  • restarting a pressure system safely.

For more information, see:

NHS test and trace: workplace guidance

The NHS guidance on the test and trace service forms a central part of the Government's coronavirus recovery strategy. It explains how employers and businesses can play their part in the NHS test and trace programme to slow the spread of the virus.

The test and trace service is designed to support businesses and economic recovery by, providing testing for anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus, so if they have been tested positive, and they and their household member know to continue to self-isolate. This should help to reduce the number of people needing to self-isolate.

This service also aims to help the Government to go further in safely easing or lifting lockdown measures, once it is safe to do.

This guidance also provides information on:

  • contract tracing;
  • NHS COVID-19 app;
  • guidance for workers and self-employed.

For more information, see:

Useful Sites

England

Wales

Scotland

Northern Ireland

Other

PCB rule changes in force
Published: 01 Jul 2020

The rules in England and Wales regarding the decontamination or disposal of equipment containing Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) have changed changed due to amendments that came into force on 1 July 2020.

Background

PCBs are man-made organic compounds used within cooling and insulating fluids contained in electrical equipment such as transformers. Studies in the 1970s and 1980s discovered that traces of PCBs could be found in fish and also in humans which consumed them. In addition, the compound does not easily biodegrade, leading to environmental harm. Most PCBs were therefore banned in 1986, with a phasing-out programme developed to deal with the rest.

The UK is also a Party to the Stockholm Convention, which aims to protect human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutants by eliminating or restricting their production, and which came into force in 2004. It requires that Parties to the Convention remove equipment with lower concentrations of PCBs by 2025.

In 2010 the UK published the Environmental Protection (Disposal of Polychlorinated Biphenyls and other Dangerous Substances) (England and Wales) Regulations SI 2000/1043 which built on previous PCB regulation and brought in strict controls on those still holding equipment containing PCBs. They required any such equipment to be registered and specified that equipment containing a PCB fluid of 0.05% or less can be held until the end of its useful life and then must be decontaminated or disposed of.

What is changing?

The new amendments bring in stricter controls in line with the Stockholm Convention and lower the PCB threshold in the Regulations. The amendments contained in the Environmental Protection (Disposal of Polychlorinated Biphenyls and other Dangerous Substances) (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations SI 2020/489:

  • specify that a transformer with 0.005% or less of PCBs by weight, or a total volume of 0.05dm3 or less of PCBs, can be used until the end of its useful life before being decontaminated or disposed of. The law previously stated 0.05% of PCBs by weight as the threshold, and a volume was not previously specified;
  • introduce a new requirement allowing transformers with the following quantitiesofPCBs to be used until 31 December 2025, after which they must be decontaminated or disposed of:
    • between 0.005% and 0.05% by weight of PCBs,
    • a total volume of more than 0.05dm3 of PCBs.

The use of the term "transformer" also includes ancillary equipment, including radiators, bushings, through-wall bushings and capacitors on air blast circuit breakers.

What happens next?

For those who have such equipments containing PCBs on site, it is recommended that the volume or weight of the PCBs is checked and plans made to decontaminate the equipment, where necessary, following the new 2025 deadline. If the equipment contains more than 0.005% of PCBs then it cannot be used beyond 31 December 2025.

Equipment containing 0.005% or less of PCBs by weight, or a total volume of 0.05dm3 or less of PCBs can be used until the end of their useful life before having to be decontaminated.

For more information, see the:

  • Environmental Protection (Disposal of Polychlorinated Biphenyls and other Dangerous Substances) (England and Wales) Regulations SI 2000/1043;
  • Environmental Protection (Disposal of Polychlorinated Biphenyls and other Dangerous Substances) (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations SI 2020/489.

Business and Planning Bill published
Published: 29 Jun 2020

The Government has published the Business and Planning Bill which contains a range of measures aimed at helping businesses and the economy recover from the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had.

The provisions of the Bill address different business sectors as well as the planning process, introducing both temporary and permanent changes to legislation which will hopefully make things easier for businesses and the economy to transition from the period of lockdown to recovery.

Background

When lockdown measures were introduced in March 2020 in a bid to tackle and slow down the spread of Covid-19, many businesses had to cease trading. This period will have had an obvious and significant impact on businesses across the UK, all of which now face the strange prospect of re-opening their doors and beginning trade once more in a very different world.

The recovery will, therefore, be difficult without additional support.

That is where this Bill aims to help. Once it receives Royal assent, it will remove some short term obstacles for some business sectors, albeit temporarily, to help them bounce back more quickly following lockdown. Some of the measures proposed in the Bill are described below.

Changes to the planning system

The planning system has faced its own challenges during lockdown but has continued to operate throughout this period to try and support the economy and construction.

However, to ensure the system in England continues to operate effectively and that planning continues to support the construction sector and the economy, the Bill aims to introduce several new temporary measures, including:

  • a way in which developers can request that working hours on construction sites are extended, where such hours are included as a planning condition on planning permission;
  • an extension to the expiry of some planning permissions and listed building consents to ensure that planned developments which have not yet been started are given more time to be implemented given the disruption that the pandemic has had on the construction industry;
  • a similar extension granted in relation to outline planning permission;
  • more flexibility for the Planning Inspectorate to choose which type of procedure it will use to determine planning appeals - i.e. written representations, hearings or local inquiries (these amendments are permanent). The change will also cover appeals relating to listed buildings and conservation areas and also to hazardous substances consent;
  • temporary removal of the requirement for the Mayor of London to make the current Spatial Development Strategy available for physical inspection and to allow hard copies to be provided on request.

Goods vehicles

A test certificate issued within the past 12 months is required to use a heavy vehicle such as lorries or buses. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the vehicle testing regime and it is assumed that once testing resumes there will be a surge in demand for such tests.

The Bill, therefore, will allow the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency to manage the demand by prioritising road safety. For example, it may test vehicles used for carrying dangerous goods as a priority, choosing to delay the tests for safer vehicles.

Once again, this is a temporary change implemented as a response to Covid-19.

Bounce Back Loan Schemes

Bounce Back Loan Schemes are a way for small businesses to quickly access loans to help with the economic disruption caused by Covid-19.

Usually, extensive paperwork needs to be submitted for loans and detailed examinations of business plans etc. have to take place. The Bill will allow lenders to rely on self-certification that they meet the eligibility criteria for the scheme and that they can afford to repay the loan. Lenders will, however, continue to carry out fraud checks.

Alcohol licensing

The Bill modifies existing legislation to ensure automatic extensions to on-sales alcohol licences to allow for off-sales, allowing licensed premises to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises if they cannot already do so. This change allows businesses to trade but maintain safe working practices and social distancing measures.

This temporary change will last until September 2021.

Outdoor seating

The Bill provides temporary measures to allow those selling food and drink by introducing a temporary fast-track process to obtain permission to put street furniture, such as tables and chairs, on the pavement outside the premises.

This will help some businesses to operate safely and to enforce social distancing measures whilst helping them to maximise opportunities for income.

For more information, see the:

The Health and Safety Executive today issued a safety alert over a substantial number of face masks that do not comply with the current standards.

Some filtering facepiece respirators originating from China claiming to be of KN95 standards, provide an inadequate level of protection and are likely to be of poor quality, and accompanied by fake or fraudulent paperwork.

KN95 is a performance rating under the Chinese standard GB26:2006, which is broadly the same as the European standard BSEN149:2001+A1:2009 for FFP2 masks. However, there is no independent certification to ensure compliance and quality, and those products manufactured to the KN95 rating are declared compliant by the manufacturer.

All personal protective equipment (PPE) must also be CE marked to be sold or marketed in the UK. 

Due to the fact that the compliance and quality cannot be assured, masks KN95 must not be used as PPE, and those that are not CE marked must be removed from supply immediately.

If any of the masks are CE marked, the supplier must be able to demonstrate that the documentation and the marking is genuine.

DAERA provide an update on COVID-19
Published: 09 Jun 2020

Minister of Agriculture, Environment, and Rural Affairs Edwin Poots has paused all routine Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) inspections of businesses, industry and utility services until 30 April 2020.

This follows on from an earlier decision to pause routine farm inspections and is a further response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim is to take pressure off businesses, industry and utility service providers, who are working extremely hard to ensure the economy and utility services keep going where possible. 

However, essential inspections will continue while any reports of incidents with the potential to cause a significant impact on public health, animal health and welfare, plant health or the environment, including the safety of food supplies, illegal waste disposal or impacts on drinking water will be investigated as normal.

This In Focus covers:

Inspections and investigations paused;
Inspections that will continue;
Waste sector works classified as key;
Temporary Regulatory Position Statements and Guidance.

Inspections and investigations paused

The inspections and investigations paused include:

General:

  • routine inspection programmes of major industrial installations;
  • reports concerning illegal waste disposal which have been assessed as low level and low risk;
  • routine compliance monitoring site inspections.

Water:

  • routine Water Regulation inspections;
  • planned routine audits of Northern Ireland Water sites;
  • routine monitoring of private water supplies;
  • routine oil and pesticide storage checks on industrial premises.

Marine:

  • routine inspections of Marine Protected Areas;
  • marine construction, dredging and disposal activities;
  • routine inspections of fishing vessels at sea.

Inland fisheries:

  • routine inspection of commercial and recreational licences;
  • routine inspections for work permitted under the Fisheries Act;
  • routine inspections relating to low severity fish kills;
  • investigations into low level reports of illegal fishing.

Plant Health:

  • non-essential plant health inspections;
  • all routine forestry grant scheme inspections.

Veterinary Service Animal Health Group:

  • routine Animal By-Products and Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies inspections, supervisions and feed sampling;
  • routine artificial reproduction inspections and audits;
  • routine agri-food non-farm inspections;
  • Food Business Operator routine compliance audits for all food business establishments with a "Good" or "Generally Satisfactory" status;
  • Third Country compliance audits in abattoirs;
  • routine zoo and wildlife licence inspections.

Inspections that will continue

The following will continue:

  • any reported incidents where there is a risk to human or animal health and welfare or serious risk to the environment, including:
    • high risk or high impact waste pollution, or
    • offending, or high or medium severity water pollution incidents;
  • incidents of fly tipping requiring use of DAERA’s fly tipping contract, including reports of dumped carcasses;
  • administrative inspections of waste movements;
  • regulation of Northern Ireland Water, with some relaxation of monitoring programmes;
  • regulation of private water supply sites;
  • targeted surveillance and inspections in identified higher risk locations with the potential to impact on drinking water supplies;
  • response to complaints and significant environmental incidents in marine areas;
  • satellite fishing vessel monitoring and vessel logging in harbours;
  • live fish movement certification scheme;
  • glass eel inspections;
  • reports of fish kills and illegal fishing;
  • incidents in relation to animal welfare;
  • port sanitary and phytosanitary inspections;
  • inspections necessary to maintain food supplies, protect public health and enable export trade facilitation and certification;
  • response to breaches of Animal By Products or Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies Regulations;
  • plant health inspections;
  • National Residue Control plan and sampling of C1 seed for certification;
  • serious incidents relating to dangerous wild animals, wildlife crime, wildfires and alien species.

Waste sector works classified as key

In addition, the Minister recognised waste sector works as key, during the COVID-19 crisis:

"During this pandemic we must do all we can not to intensify the burden on our public health services. By recycling correctly, putting your waste in the right bin and not dumping unwanted waste we can all play our part - it’s that simple.

"These easy, sensible and practical steps will stop any additional risks to public health and support our waste sector workers who are already under increasing pressure".

Those in the waste industry were also recognised as playing a vital role during the coronavirus outbreak, including those collecting, transporting, treating and disposing of waste.

"Maintaining these critical services is a priority of the Executive. These men and women not only help protect our environment and public health but play a vital role in keeping the supply chain functioning.

"The materials they collect and process, such as cardboard, plastic and glass, are vital resources in package production across our food and retail sectors, so a drop in recycling can impact on the supply chain functioning effectively.

"For these reasons all those working in the waste sector are key workers. I have also established a Covid-19 Waste Group to provide support, guidance and regulatory direction to the waste sector. So please, do what you can to help by putting the right waste in the right place".

Temporary Regulatory Position Statements and Guidance

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) have published a series of temporary COVID-19 guidance and Regulatory Position Statements which deal with specific circumstances where they are relaxing normal regulatory requirements to avoid increasing risks to the environment or human health during the particular circumstances of COVID-19.

If you comply with their requirements, and all of your other environmental regulatory requirements, they will not normally take enforcement action against you.

The RPS and guidance published so far include:

SEPA's COVID-19 response
Published: 08 Jun 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.

Temporary Regulatory Position Statements

SEPA have published a series of temporary COVID-19 Regulatory Position Statements which deal with specific circumstances where they are relaxing normal regulatory requirements to avoid increasing risks to the environment or human health during the particular circumstances of COVID-19.

If you comply with their requirements, and all of your other environmental regulatory requirements, they will not normally take enforcement action against you.

The Statements published so far include:

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


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