HSE and Covid at work: A case of regulatory failure

A comprehensive review of the latest evidence regarding Covid-19 transmission in the workplace and the response of HSE and government.

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About the book

On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organisation declared a global Coronavirus pandemic. From the outset, workplaces were recognised as a major source for the spread of the disease. Yet the UK government downplayed the dangers, with Prime Minister Johnson announcing that workplaces were ‘Covid-secure’ thanks in part to HSE ‘spot-checks’. Yet, throughout this period, the Health and Safety Executive, the agency responsible for securing compliance with health and safety regulations at work, has been notable by its absence.

The analysis contained in this report, partly based on data gathered via Freedom of Information requests, reveals the extent to which the HSE failed in its duties to protect workers, promote relevant health and safety laws and prosecute rule-breaking employers. It also failed to highlight the rights and functions of the 100,000 trade union health and safety representatives and the role they could play in securing compliance with the law and appropriate health and safety practices at work. Instead, tax-payers money was used by the HSE to outsource inspection to private companies to undertake phone call checks to employers.

This is a timely and informed report highlighting the failings of the HSE and the UK’s framework of laws. It concludes with a list of recommendations – the first of which is the need for a major independent inquiry into the future of health and safety in the UK.

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