As the country faces the prospect of a second lockdown in light of rising infection rates and a prediction of significantly increased hospital admissions, the government has updated the protection advice to the public in order to reduce the spread of the virus. The advice is now:
- Wash hands – keep washing your hands regularly
- Cover face – wear a face covering in enclosed spaces
- Make space – stay at least 2 metres apart - or 1 metre with a face covering or other precautions
- Do not meet in groups larger than 6 (with some limited exceptions)
Whilst the guidance to the public in those terms appears, at least on the face of it, to be relatively straightforward, the advice given to businesses is obviously much more complex. The consequences of failing to comply with the regulations could be extremely serious, and could also have a significant impact on the ability of that business to operate and even ultimately survive the pandemic.
The Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 came into force in July and granted local authorities new powers to deal with serious and imminent threats to public health, and to prevent the transmission of the virus when necessary and proportionate. Those powers allow inspectors to do the following:
- Restrict access to, or close, individual premises
- Prohibit certain events (or types of event) from taking place
- Restrict access to, or close, public outdoor places (or types of outdoor public places)
These powers are actively being enforced as we have seen a number of examples in the media in recent weeks of restaurants and bars being forced to close due to a lack of social distancing measures and inadequate enforcement of government guidelines.
Of note also is the news that the Health & Safety Executive, the regulator responsible for health and safety compliance, recently received additional funding in the sum of £14 million in light of the coronavirus pandemic. We understand those funds have been allocated to 200* call centre employees fielding queries and complaints about non-compliance by businesses, in addition to more inspectors and equipment.
Businesses should be aware that, although the local authorities and regulators responsible for the new regulations are probably currently at capacity, and perhaps only dealing with the most serious of concerns, they will likely monitor issues raised about particular businesses and investigate when possible. The need for compliance is therefore important at all times, to avoid difficult, stressful and costly intervention down the line.
For advice and guidance related to a health and safety investigation call 0161 696 6250 to speak to one of our solicitors or alternatively complete and submit our online enquiry form and someone will contact you as soon as possible in regards to your queries.
*Source: British Safety Council