Rollits advises on update to guidance on coronavirus in the workplace

Care home operators are among the employers being advised by a regional law firm to be aware of the latest Government guidance on illness and death of employees linked with exposure to coronavirus in the workplace.

Rollits, who have offices in Hull and York, say the pandemic places specific responsibility on employers under RIDDOR – the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013.

Jennifer Sewell, a Partner at the firm, said the update from the Health & Safety Executive (“HSE”) sets out three circumstances in which employers must make a RIDDOR report in the event of an incident in the workplace which relates to coronavirus.

The first is an unintended incident at work which has led to someone’s possible or actual exposure to COVID-19.  Jennifer said: “The HSE has given an example of a dangerous occurrence which needs to be reported as being a lab worker accidentally smashing a glass vial containing coronavirus which leads to others being exposed.”

The second instance is when a worker has been diagnosed as having COVID-19 and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work.  She continued: “If there is reasonable evidence that someone diagnosed with COVID-19 is likely to have been exposed to the virus at work an employer must report this.  An example given by the HSE of work-related exposure to coronavirus is a health care professional who is diagnosed with COVID-19 after treating patients who have COVID-19 or had the virus at the time of treatment by the employee concerned.”

Thirdly, in the event of the death of an employee with COVID-19, if it is confirmed by a registered medical practitioner that the likely cause of death was occupational exposure to coronavirus, the employer must report the occurrence as soon as is practical and within 10 days of the death.

Jennifer said: “It is yet to be seen how broadly the HSE will interpret “exposure in the workplace” in relation to COVID-19, but their examples include medical scenarios and we would expect it to extend to businesses operating care settings.  Certainly the scenario of a health care professional who is diagnosed with COVID-19 after treating patients who had COVID-19 is something that the care home sector should be aware of.”

Employers who have any queries in relation to RIDDOR reports or the current position with health and safety in the workplace can contact Jennifer on 01482 337368 or email jennifer.sewell@rollits.com

Posted on: 30/04/2020

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

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