Top Stories –

Social Distancing Rule at Work

The UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has warned employers it will hand out enforcement notices to those who do not comply with the two-metre social distancing rule in workplaces that remain open during the coronavirus outbreak.

The regulator said it is ‘constantly reviewing’ the situation and will consider taking action against those who flout the rules.

‘In these extraordinary times, HSE is constantly reviewing the fast-moving situation with our partners across government to support the national effort to tackle Covid-19. 

‘Where HSE identifies employers who are not taking action to comply with the relevant [Public Health England] guidance to control public health risks, for example employers not taking appropriate action to socially distance or ensure workers in the shielded category can follow the NHS advice to self-isolate for the period specified, we will consider taking a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks. These actions include the provision of specific advice to employers through to issuing enforcement notices to help secure improvements with the PHE guidance.’

IOSH Magazine, July 2020

HSE receives more than 4,500 COVID-19 complaints

More than 4,500 complaints have been made to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) since the first UK case of coronavirus was confirmed, it has been revealed.

Last month the HSE issued a warning to employers that it would hand out enforcement notices to those who do not comply with the two-metre social distancing rule in workplaces that remain open during the outbreak.

The workplace safety regulator said it was now working through the reports, received since March, with a ‘range of actions’.

Talking to IOSH magazine, it said: “Between 9 March and 3 May 2020, we have received more than 4,500 workplace concerns relating to COVID-19 in some form. We are listening to these concerns and working through these with a range of actions. Further updates on these outcomes will be made available as soon as possible.”

IOSH Magazine
May 2020

Fire safety warning as millions work from home

Firefighters issued urgent #StayHomeStaySafe advice as millions of people started their first full week of working from home amidst the Coronavirus pandemic.

The majority of city office workers have now stopped commuting following Government advice to avoid all but essential travel in a bid to try and contain the spread of Covid-19.

With the increased numbers of people at home during the day, London Fire Brigade is warning of the potential for more fires as people adapt their daily routines and others are in isolation, and calling for people to think, take action and avoid becoming a further casualty for the NHS.

Firefighters are usually called to a larger number of domestic fires between 6pm and 8pm and there has traditionally been an increase in cooking fires during the weekend when people are at home for longer periods of time.

However in 2020 we are seeing an increase in weekday fires and fires earlier in the day so firefighters are warning that common causes of fires in the home such as cooking, smoking, electrical items and heating sources could become even more prevalent as people are spending more time indoors than usual.

The Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Dan Daly, said: “It’s absolutely vital that in these uncertain and unprecedented times people don’t forget about basic fire safety in the home.

“We are not trying to scaremonger, but clearly with increased numbers of people indoors for much longer periods of time, there is a heightened risk of fire.

“This is about keeping you and your loved ones safe and we must all do what we can to not inadvertently add pressure to our already challenged NHS.

“There are such simple things we can all do to ensure we are keeping safe while we are all spending more time at home. The first thing you can do is test that your smoke alarms are working.”

Cooking fires are a major concern as people are expected to cook more during the day and with schools shut and children at home, parents could get distracted.

An increase in smoking-related fires, which are the most common cause of fire deaths, is also thought to be a possibility as smokers may start smoking inside more as people are continually advised not to go out unnecessarily. While it may not be possible to visit vulnerable friends and family members at the moment, please speak to them and remind them about the dangers of smoking.

As people who don’t usually work from home set up temporary offices, there is also a risk of an increase in electrical fires.

Hazards include overloading plug sockets, using counterfeit or incorrect chargers for tablets, laptops and mobile phones and “daisy-chaining” – plugging multiple extension leads together or plugging many multi-socket adaptors into a single socket.

Another concern around people spending more time at home is that it could lead to higher heating bills, which in turn may tempt people to heat their home unsafely.

Assistant Commissioner Daly added: “This is all about basic fire safety awareness and the checks we are advising will take just a few minutes to carry out to keep you and your family safe.”

London Fire Brigade
March 2020

Must know: Suicide Prevention

Suicide is a major issue for society and a leading cause of years of life lost. There were 5,021 deaths from suicide registered in England in 2018 and for every person who dies at least ten people are affected.

The Local Government Association (LGA) points out that councils are well placed to prevent suicide because their work on public health addresses many of the risk factors, such as alcohol and drug misuse, and spans efforts to address wider determinants of health such as employment and housing. There are also important opportunities to reach local people who are not in contact with health services through online initiatives or working with the voluntary and community sector.

However, it also points out that this needs to be a joint approach from various stakeholders. A local suicide prevention plan combines actions by local authorities, mental health and health care services, primary care, community-based organisations and voluntary agencies, employers, schools, colleges and universities, the police, transport services, prisons and others.

Councils have been active on suicide prevention work in recent years. Significant progress has been made in getting plans for suicide prevention into place. Attention is now focused on ensuring action is taken to reduce suicides.

The delivery of a comprehensive strategy is effective in reducing deaths by suicide through interventions that build community resilience and target groups of people at heightened risk of suicide, says the LGA. Councillors, directors of public health and health and wellbeing boards have a central role. Their involvement is crucial in coordinating local suicide prevention efforts and ensuring every area’s strategy is turning into action.

March 2020

Health and work – infographics

Public Health England (PHE) and The Work Foundation have collaborated to produce 13 infographics intended to help raise awareness and understanding of the relationship between health and work.

These infographics are intended to help public health practitioners, local authorities and policy makers to make the case and inform planning on embedding health, work and worklessness within and across these issues.

The infographic covering ‘Spotlight on alcohol, drugs and tobacco’ to Health and work has been updated. This, together with the other infographics, is available here

The other infographics cover the following:

  1. spotlight on mental health
  2. cost of ill health
  3. health of the working age population
  4. health of UK employees
  5. spotlight on musculoskeletal conditions (MSK)
  6. managing health at work for employers
  7. spotlight on small medium enterprises (SME)
  8. unemployment and economic inactivity
  9. welfare
  10. the local picture
  11. supporting older workers with health problems
  12. young people and health at work.
Public Health England