Category Archives: Legal Updates

Mandatory use of face coverings on public transport

It was announced on the 4th June, that after a long period of debate, face coverings will now be mandatory on all public transport in England. Face coverings must now be worn on all forms of public transport from Monday 15th June with fines in place for any person who does not.

Face coverings do not need to be medical grade and can be made of any material.

The Government is still urging the public not to use public transport wherever possible however, where people need to use public transport, because of the potentially enclosed spaces for longer periods of time,  SAGE (The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) has said that the wearing of face coverings can provide some small additional protection.

It is important to note that even with face coverings, the 2-metre social distancing and washing of hands is still important and people should wash their hands or sanitise before putting their face covering on and after taking it off.

Face coverings should cover the mouth and nose and where using disposable masks, these should be properly disposed of in appropriate bins and not re-used. It is recommended that re-useable masks are washed regularly at a minimum of 60ᵒC.

Wearing a face covering

A cloth face covering should cover your mouth and nose while allowing you to breathe comfortably. It can be as simple as a scarf or bandana that ties behind the head.

Wash your hands or use hand sanitiser before putting it on and after taking it off. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth at all times and store used face coverings in a plastic bag until you have an opportunity to wash them.

Do not touch the front of the face covering, or the part of the face covering that has been in contact with your mouth and nose. Once removed, make sure you clean any surfaces the face covering has touched.

You should wash a face covering regularly. It can go in with other laundry, using your normal detergent.

When wearing a face covering, take care to tuck away any loose ends.

how a cloth covering should fit
How a cloth covering should fit

Making your own face covering

Using a T-shirt

You will need:

  • an old T-shirt that you do not want anymore (ideally size small or extra small)
  • scissors

Step 1: Cut a straight line across the width of the T-shirt (front and back) approximately 20cm from the bottom of the T-shirt.

Cutting a strip from t-shirt

Step 2: From a point 2cm below the top right-hand corner of the fabric, make a 15cm horizontal cut through both sides of the fabric that is parallel to the top of the rectangle.

Step 3: Cut down towards the bottom of the fabric until you reach approximately 2cm above the bottom edge. From here, make another 15cm cut that runs parallel to the bottom of the fabric to make a rectangle that can be discarded.

Cutting a rectangle and tie strings

Step 4: To make the ties, cut open the edge of the 2 long strips of fabric. Unfold the main piece of fabric and place over the mouth and the nose. The 4 strips act as ties to hold the cloth face covering in place and should be tied behind the head and around the neck.

Tying the strings of a face covering behind the head

A sewn cloth face covering

You will need:

  • two 25cm x 25cm squares of cotton fabric
  • two 20cm pieces of elastic (or string or cloth strips)
  • needle and thread
  • scissors
Items you need for a sewn face covering
Items you need for a sewn cloth face covering

Step 1: Cut out two 25cm x 25cm squares of cotton fabric. Stack the 2 squares on top of each other.

Step 2: Fold over one side by 0.75cm and hem, then repeat on the opposite side. Make 2 channels by folding the double layer of fabric over 1.5cm along each side and stitching this down.

How to fold face covering

Step 3: Run a 20cm length of elastic (or string or cloth strip) through the wider hem on each side of the face covering. These will be the ear loops. Use a large needle to thread it through. Tie the ends tightly.

Threading the ear loops and sewing into place

If you only have string, you can make the ties longer and tie the covering behind your head.

Step 4: Gently pull on the elastic so that the knots are tucked inside the hem. Gather the sides of the covering on the elastic and adjust so the covering fits your face. Then securely stitch the elastic in place to keep it from slipping. These elastic loops fit over the ears.

Completed face covering

Face coverings should not be used by children under the age of 3 or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly. For example, primary age children unassisted, or those with respiratory conditions.

This information is a guide to making a simple face covering. We do not endorse any particular method and other instructions are widely available online. Always take care to use equipment safely to avoid injury. Children should only follow these instructions under the supervision of adults.

 

Written by Martin Wybrow – Health and Safety Partner

Coronavirus-related deaths of 91 NHS workers could be investigated

The deaths of more than 90 health and care workers could be investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Sky News has announced.

The HSE has received a growing number of reports of workplace deaths related to COVID-19.

The reports have been formally submitted under RIDDOR, the “Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences”.

An HSE spokesperson said: “In these unprecedented times the NHS and front line workers are under immense pressure doing what they need to do to save lives. We need to put the needs of the NHS first, along with the needs of the families who have lost their loved ones.

“We are committed to getting the most accurate picture possible of all deaths that should be reported to us and are in contact with NHS Trusts.”

They wanted to remain anonymous, but said they welcome the HSE’s involvement, because they have “serious concerns” about the level of protection provided for their relative who worked in a care home.

Sky News has been told a total of 91 RIDDOR reports relating to the deaths of healthcare and social care workers are currently being looked at. The HSE is expecting to receive more in the future.

Of these 91 deaths, 26 have occurred in local authority social care settings. These are big numbers for the HSE. For the whole of last year a total of 147 workplace deaths were investigated. Coronavirus deaths alone could easily match that.

At the start of the outbreak, the HSE issued new coronavirus guidance to employers, which states deaths must be reported if they’re connected to “occupational exposure to coronavirus”.

The HSE will examine whether the RIDDOR reported deaths meet the criteria for a full investigation.

If they do, the HSE will evaluate whether the workplace did enough to protect staff from the virus.

One private health and safety investigator, Martin Marmoy-Haynes, told Sky News: “The onus is on the employer to say here is my risk assessment, we carefully looked at this. We considered the access, social distancing, the signage, the one way routes. We did everything that is reasonably practicable.”

Meanwhile some families are instructing lawyers to start private proceedings against hospital trusts or care providers.

The law firm Irwin Mitchell is handling a number of cases. One of their personal injury lawyers, David Johnson-Keay said his clients have many unanswered questions.

“Provision of PPE is a big issue and one of the big questions we are being asked about. Were they provided with proper PPE? Was it fit for purpose? And if not, why was that the case?” he said.

It will take time for the HSE to consider each of the reported deaths. But if it decides to investigate it has the power to fine or even prosecute NHS trusts or care providers which break the health and safety rules.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) says it has set up an independent process to ensure deaths of staff are being reported to the HSE.

In a statement, a Department of Health spokesperson said: “The safety of our NHS and social care staff is paramount and employers should follow their legal duty to report the deaths of any staff who die as a result of exposure to coronavirus from their work to the Health and Safety Executive.

“In addition, we are introducing a new process for medical examiners to scrutinise the deaths of health and care staff.

“During this global pandemic we have been working around the clock to ensure PPE is delivered as quickly as possible to those on the front line”.

Source – Sky News

Reducing the spread of infection in the workplace

In these unprecedented times, it’s more important than ever that businesses take the right measures to ensure their facilities are hygienic and that employees are safe. Those businesses that have temporarily closed and are starting to plan for when they can reopen, should think about what the workplace will look like post lockdown, and proactively take steps to ensure they reopen in the most hygienic way possible, according to Jamie Woodhall, Technical & Innovations Manager at Rentokil Specialist Hygiene.

Regular cleaning is essential

With large numbers of people sharing space and equipment, workplaces can be places where infection spreads quickly. It is essential that those managing offices, construction sites, manufacturing plants and heavily populated workplaces make sure they doing everything they can to ensure their premises don’t serve as a hotbed for viral infection.

Areas of the workplace with high footfall such as kitchens, dining areas and washrooms should be subject to vigilant daily and weekly cleaning routines. Rentokil advises that this regular cleaning process is scheduled and tracked, ensuring that it takes place consistently and on-time.

It might sound simple but encouraging proper handwashing, something that has been repeated constantly on the news in recent weeks, will also help to prevent the spread of germs. Hands are a natural breeding ground for germs and one of the principal carriers of harmful pathogens – in fact, 80% of infections are spread by hand. Ensuring employees have access to the essential handwashing tools – warm water, soap, drying facilities and ideally, hand sanitiser – goes a long way. There should be ample supply of these products in the washrooms, breakout and kitchen areas throughout the premises, paired with handwashing reminders to encourage best practice.

Proactive prevention

On top of a regular cleaning regime, businesses should book a minimum of two deep cleans per year. This may need to increase based on the nature of the business and its hours of operation, so it is recommended that all businesses contact professional cleaning companies to work out the best service and frequency schedule for them. Professional deep cleaning is also especially important during a period of illness outbreak, preferably managed by specialist cleaning companies with professionals trained to tackle hard-to-reach or rarely seen areas where potentially harmful micro-organisms might be hiding. A deep clean should include a thorough disinfection of high frequency touch points, as well as moving all furniture or equipment away from the walls to make sure no areas are missed from the standard cleaning routine.

With regard to the coronavirus outbreak, businesses that remain in operation would be wise to review and update their cleaning regimes.  They should also consider proactively preparing in case a deep clean is required, such as in the event they have a suspected or confirmed Coronavirus diagnosis onsite. This would require a contingency survey of the premises, typically offered by experts to gather key information in advance including a site-specific risk assessment, to enable a quick response in the event of Coronavirus being reported on the site at a later date.

If there are no confirmed or suspected cases of coronavirus on a site, an all-purpose specialist disinfection may be appropriate to help protect against microbial infection, and to help maintain a high level of hygiene in a facility.

Reacting quickly

In addition to prevention, it’s also important that if a worker or visitor to your facility does contract, or is suspected to have contracted coronavirus, you react quickly to decontaminate the premises.

Under government guidance, in most circumstances the amount of infectious virus on any contaminated surface is likely to have significantly decreased after 72 hours. This is a key consideration to determine the type of specialist disinfection service that your premises will need.

For businesses with a confirmed or suspected case of coronavirus on the premises and where the site needs to be up and running quickly, a service manager can implement stringently risk assessed infection control measures that go beyond the minimum World Health Organization guidance.

Firstly, they survey the site wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), and respiratory protective equipment (RPE). Then, guided by a site-specific risk assessment, method statement and safe operating procedures, Royal Society for Public Health qualified staff meticulously disinfect rooms and areas that pose a threat of causing cross contamination, using a high-level surface disinfectant on surfaces such as floors, walls, ceilings and any objects. ULV disinfection fogging, may also be used to allow for the treatment of large areas in a short space of time.

All waste generated as part of the disinfection process needs to be segregated onsite and then disposed of in a safe and legally compliant manner, in line with guidance set out by Public Health England, to help eliminate cross contamination.

Coronavirus: Prosecution threat for firms who fail to make premises ‘COVID secure’

Companies are being threatened with prosecution if they do not make premises “COVID secure” for returning workers.

The warning came as people in England were told to go back to work if they cannot do their job from home – such as builders and manufacturers.

Ministers have stressed firms should ensure social distancing stays in place as the lockdown is slowly eased over the next few months to stop the spread of coronavirus, which has already killed over 39,000 people in the UK.

Best practice plans have been drawn up by the government for businesses to ensure workers are protected – such as remaining two metres apart, being given face masks or provided with hand sanitiser.

But the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) – which will do spot inspections to make sure firms are keeping people safe – has confirmed any that don’t follow the new rules could face legal action.

Chief executive Sarah Albon explained how much power the agency will have to live up to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s demand for any reopening workplace to be “COVID-secure”.

At Downing Street’s daily coronavirus briefing, she said: “Inspectors can require businesses to do certain things – enforcement notices, requiring them to take particular kinds of action.

“In the most extreme circumstances if there is a risk of serious injury to an individual employee they can issue a notice which prohibits certain activities from taking place.

“Breach of those kind of enforcement notices is essentially a criminal offence and we can prosecute people who fail to do the right thing.”

Unions have endorsed the guidelines, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady saying on Monday they are a “step in the right direction”.

She urged: “All employers must now carry out and publish risk assessments in consultation with unions and their workforces.

“After the confusion of the last few days, working people will only feel confident if government and employers act now to make safer working a reality in every workplace.”

The HSE has been granted a 10% budget increase to spend on equipment, hiring more call centre staff and carrying out more inspections.

Source – Sky News

New guidance on how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic

New guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic has been issued.

The government, in consultation with industry, has produced guidance to help ensure workplaces are as safe as possible.

The following 8 guides cover a range of different types of work. Many businesses operate more than one type of workplace, such as an office, factory and fleet of vehicles. You may need to use more than one of these guides as you think through what you need to do to keep people safe.

Construction and other outdoor work – Guidance for people who work in or run outdoor working environments.

Factories, plants and warehouses – Guidance for people who work in or run factories, plants and warehouses.

Labs and research facilities – Guidance for people who work in or run indoor labs and research facilities and similar environments.

Offices and contact centres – Guidance for people who work in or run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments.

Other people’s homes – Guidance for people working in, visiting or delivering to other people’s homes.

Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery – Guidance for people who work in or run restaurants offering takeaway or delivery services.

Shops and branches – Guidance for people who work in or run shops, branches, stores or similar environments.

Vehicles – Guidance for people who work in or from vehicles, including couriers, mobile workers, lorry drivers, on-site transit and work vehicles, field forces and similar.

RIDDOR reporting of Covid-19 – Havio questions

The HSE has recently published an article on the RIDDOR reporting of Covid-19. This is Havio’s take on it and questions that we pose.

The HSE states:

In relation to the virus you must only make a report under RIDDOR (The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) when:

  • an unintended incident at work has led to someone’s possible or actual exposure to coronavirus. This must be reported as a dangerous occurrence.
  • a worker has been diagnosed as having Covid-19 and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work. This must be reported as a case of disease.
  • a worker dies as a result of occupational exposure to coronavirus.

If something happens at work which results in (or could result in) the release or escape of coronavirus you must report this as a dangerous occurrence. An example of a dangerous occurrence would be a lab worker accidentally smashing a glass vial containing coronavirus, leading to people being exposed.

If someone dies as a result of a work related exposure to coronavirus and this is confirmed as the likely cause of death by a registered medical practitioner then you must report this as soon as is practical and within 10 days of the death.

 

Havio – This guidance is something that has been recently updated and we have some questions that we are posing to the HSE.

“Unintended incident” – We are sure incidents are generally not intended but examples of this would be useful – is it a sneeze of a co-worker with symptoms, someone walking too close to someone on a site not observing the 2 metre rule or is it only relevant in a lab where procedures are not followed and germs spread through an incident as detailed above?

We are not clear on how anyone could be sure or even convinced of coronavirus being contracted at work unless working in certain sectors and environments where testing is key and monitored – eg. care workers and nurses etc. even then proof would be virtually impossible to achieve as they may have contracted in so many other ways eg. transport to work. If someone you work with shows symptoms and isolates then is tested positive, do you still report under RIDDOR or do you need solid evidence which would be impossible to locate?

If a person dies because of Covid -19 how can it be established that it was due to occupational exposure?

 

We believe more detail is needed as this could cause a substantial amount of over reporting and distort figures.

Christmas Party Prosecution – Shelbourne v Cancer Research UK

The High Court was recently asked to consider an appeal in a case which arose from an accident at a Christmas party. When writing about vicarious liability at Christmas parties the recent court of appeal case of Bellman v Northampton Recruitment 2018 has been the focus of attention. Therefore, this latest decision in Shelbourne v Cancer Research UK 2019 is very important to re-establishing that the doctrine of vicarious liability is not infinitely extendable.

Shelbourne v Cancer Research UK 2019

The claimant brought a claim against her employer Cancer Research UK (‘CRUK’) after sustaining an injury to her back at a work Christmas Party. The accident occurred when she was picked up on the dance floor by a visiting scientist Robert Beilik who dropped her when he lost his balance.

The claimant lost her case in the county court but she appealed the decision. The focus of her submissions was that her employer should have done more to prevent the accident by putting measures in place at parties where alcohol is served. The suggestions included:

(a) Securing a written declaration, signed by the attendees, that they will not behave inappropriately;
(b) Drafting a risk assessment encompassing eventualities stemming from all such forms of inappropriate behaviour;
(c) Training staff (whether or not they are merely volunteering to help at the event); and
(d) Special training for those responsible for the provision of a risk assessment, covering all envisaged forms of inappropriate behaviour.

When considering the appeal, the Judge took into account a number of factors to include; the fact that the Christmas party was an event for adults and attendance was not compulsory; Mr Beilik’s presence at the party had nothing to do with the work he undertook for the claimant’s employer; there had been no previous incidents of inappropriate behaviour caused or contributed to by alcohol. It was noted that Mr Beilik had lifted three other women prior to lifting the claimant; they did not consider his behaviour required intervention.

The appeal Judge held that the county court was right to conclude that the extent of the duty of care, as it existed at the time of the 2012 party, did not require CRUK to have put in place measures of the kind described, in order to guard against the actions of a drunken party goer.

It was also upheld that Mr Beilik’s act was not so closely connected with his employment that it would be fair and just to hold the defendant vicariously liable. He was engaged on a “frolic” of his own.

Contrast with Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Ltd

The case was distinguished from the case from Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Ltd (2018), where Court of Appeal held the employer vicariously liable for the actions of a director. In Bellman, it was the director’s control over the event which led to the incident and his reaction to what he perceived to be a challenge to his authority as director, which made the company vicariously liable for his actions.

The circumstances of the accident should be carefully analysed, in conjunction with the two stage ‘test’ for vicarious liability, to determine whether it is relevant to the scenario in question. This case is a sensible decision and helpful to all parties in demonstrating the limits of the scope of vicarious liability.

Credit to Langley Solicitors