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HSE continues its COVID inspection regime with logistics under the spotlight

In December, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out spot inspections of logistics and transport businesses to check that their operating procedures were COVID-secure.

Inspectors checked whether firms continued to manage the risk of COVID-19 during the high demand Christmas and online sales period. It was important to make sure goods were being safely despatched to stores and customers via home delivery.

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Encouragingly, the regulator reported that most sites visited had adequate safety measures in place and inspectors discovered many examples of good practice.

Notably, from a COVID-secure perspective, access to toilets, handwashing facilities and rest areas was found to be particularly good, with arrangements made for visiting drivers to safely access site facilities. Novel ways in which sector firms implemented controls to manage the risk of transmission included:

  • Active monitoring – using COVID marshals to ensure staff followed procedures;
  • Limiting worker numbers in canteens and break rooms to maintain social distancing;
  • Providing COVID kits to drivers, including hand sanitiser and wipes;
  • Grouping workers who typically worked closely together;
  • Providing electronic delivery notes to drivers in cabs rather than requiring them to visit offices;
  • Staggering shift start times to reduce entry-point congestion; and
  • Rearranging office desks and fitting screens so that office workers worked safely.

Free Download: COVID-19 Risk Assessment Template for Vehicles and HGV Drivers

Use our sample risk assessment to document the risk control measures you have introduced to control the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

However, some logistics and transport sites were found to need improvement. Inadequate COVID-secure measures included poor ventilation in office spaces, lack of site-specific risk assessments, and hand sanitiser being too far away from workstations to be used regularly. In addition to infection control oversights, inspectors also noted the following ‘basic’ workplace transport issues:

  • Poorly marked pedestrian routes;
  • Blocked footpaths; and
  • Inadequate controls to prevent vehicle driveaway incidents.
Where there was a serious risk of harm to site workers and others, inspectors provided verbal advice or took enforcement action. Most issues, however, were quickly resolved during the inspections.

HSE to broaden COVID-secure spot checks

In the coming months, the HSE is to carry out “proactive” unannounced spot checks and inspections on all types of businesses in all areas to ensure they are COVID-secure. 

With case numbers still high and ongoing national lockdown restrictions still in force, the regulator has stressed that all businesses that continue to operate must make sure that their workplace is COVID-secure. 

The HSE says it will visit any business that operates with people in the workplace. It is also working with local authorities, assisting them in the sectors they regulate such as hospitality and retail. 

Employers have a legal duty to protect workers and others from harm and this includes taking reasonable steps to control the risk and protect people from coronavirus.

What does a COVID inspection involve?

In a mix of site visits and phone calls, the HSE is ramping up the number of checks on businesses to determine whether COVID-secure measures have been implemented in accordance with government guidance. 

Over-the-phone checks may involve requests for supporting evidence, including documents, photos and, in some cases, video footage.

During visits and calls, inspectors may provide specific advice and guidance in managing risk and protecting people. Where businesses are not managing the risk from coronavirus, the HSE says it will take immediate action, including issuing enforcement notices and/or stopping certain work practices until they’re made safe. Businesses that fail to manage risks or comply with enforcement notices may be prosecuted.

"HSE is carrying out proactive checks to ensure that appropriate measures are in place to protect workers from COVID-19. Putting duty-holders on the spot and checking on how they are managing risks has always been part of our regulatory approach."

HSE

Steps you can take now

In anticipation of HSE spot checks, there are sensible and proportionate steps you should take to help keep your workplace COVID-secure, including:

  • Carrying out a COVID-19 risk assessment;
  • Maintaining social distancing; and
  • Keeping your workplace clean, with handwashing and hygiene procedures in place.

Being COVID-secure means keeping up-to-date with the latest guidance and putting in place effective measures to manage the risk. To protect workers, visitors and customers, employers must also make sure that everyone continues to follow the measures to manage the risks from coronavirus.

Help ensure a smooth inspection with support from Ellis Whittam

Worried you might be missing the mark? Our safety specialists can help you to put in place all necessary arrangements and demonstrate them through bespoke documentation and software. That way, you can protect your people, have confidence in your compliance and be regulator-ready at all times.

Find out more about our fixed-fee Health & Safety support or call 0345 226 8393 to discuss your needs now.

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