The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has suspended routine inspections amid safety fears over the coronavirus outbreak. The watchdog said it will continue to respond to serious issues but it has limited contact between individuals to ensure it is following government advice.
The regulator said its approach will take a flexible and proportionate account of the risks and challenges arising from the pandemic and, as a consequence, it has suspended targeted inspection activity of high-risk industries that are not part of the major hazard sectors, including construction and manufacturing.
It is also pausing its offshore oil and gas and onshore chemical, explosives and microbiological industry inspection activities in order to give duty holders time to overcome various immediate pressures and challenges. 'We will then focus our regulatory work so it is re-prioritised onto critical areas and activities,' a spokesperson said. 'We will continue to regulate major hazard industries throughout this time undertaking regulatory functions remotely.'
The HSE will also continue to investigate work related deaths across all sectors, 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, it confirmed, and said it 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.
'We 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.'