As Britain’s statutory regulator of occupational health and safety The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has taken action to ensure that their important role continues effectively as the COVID-19 situation unfolds.
These actions are being guided by the specific needs and characteristics of the various sectors we regulate. This is in line with advice from the UK Government, Public Health England, Public Health Wales and Health Protection Scotland.
HSE recognises the threat presented by COVID-19 to industry, our staff, and the broader community and in recognition of this we have transitioned our workforce to operate remotely.
HSE’s staff and inspectors remain contactable and we continue to engage with duty holders and other stakeholders with teleconferencing and other tools in place of face-to-face meetings.
Despite the demanding circumstances, compliance with occupational health and safety legal requirements remains with duty holders and HSE will continue its regulatory oversight of how duty holders are meeting their responsibilities in the context of the current public health risk and based on our available regulatory capacity.
HSE regulatory approach
HSE will take a flexible and proportionate account of the risks and challenges arising from the pandemic.
As a consequence, HSE:
- has suspended targeted inspection activity of high-risk industries that are not part of the major hazard sectors, including construction and manufacturing
- has carried out a short pause on our offshore oil and gas and onshore chemical, explosives and microbiological industry inspection activities so we can give duty holders time to overcome various immediate pressures and challenges and we will then focus our regulatory work so it is re-prioritised onto critical areas and activities. We will continue to regulate major hazard industries throughout this time undertaking regulatory functions remotely
- will endeavour to undertake regulatory activities which do not require site visits as normally as possible, for example Approvals and Authorisation work for biocides and pesticides, Statutory Permissioning activities such as Licensing, Safety Case / Report Assessments, Thorough Reviews, Combined Operations Notifications, Wells Notifications, Land Use Planning Applications, Hazardous Substances Consents etc
- will, across all sectors, continue to investigate work related deaths, the most serious major injuries and dangerous occurrences and reported concerns from the workforce or the public where people are being exposed to risks from work activities and we will still take action to secure compliance with the law. We will conduct as much of our investigation activity using technology as possible, without compromising the collection of evidence and our ability to secure effective control of risk and, where appropriate, justice
- will do as much of our regulatory intervention work as we can remotely, but we will still mobilise to site, including offshore, where it’s necessary to provide public assurance that hazards are being effectively managed and to secure compliance with the law. Where a site visit is required social distancing guidelines will be followed.
HSE will keep the situation under review
Updates will be communicated to duty holders via our website and or full range of online and offline communication channels.