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'.
It told IOSH magazine: '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.'
Yesterday (6 May) in the House of Commons Andy McDonald, shadow secretary of state for employment rights, asked an urgent question on guidelines for workplace safety after the lifting of the lockdown.
'We want workers in our country to feel confident that they’re returning to a safe workplace'
Prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to relax lockdown requirements in an announcement this Sunday.
In response to the Labour frontbencher's question, Paul Scully MP said the government is in the process of consulting with businesses, business representative organisations and trade unions on the issue of safer working in a COVID-19 context.
'We want workers in our country to feel confident that they’re returning to a safe workplace,' said the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. 'So we’re working with Public Health England, the Health and Safety Executive, and with 525 stakeholders in total in detail. The vast majority of which are represented across all parts of the UK.'
He said the guidelines will be published in due course.
But the Labour MP told the House that in the past week the government had sent trade unions and businesses seven consultation documents outlining proposals for a return to workplaces, and had given them just 12 hours to respond.
'The documents were not shared with the opposition, and the proposals themselves are wholly inadequate,' he said. 'No workers should have their lives or the lives of their loved ones risked simply by going to work. This is a legal right which held true before this crisis and crucially must not be cast aside now.'
Speaking about the contents of the guidelines, he added: 'They present measures to maintain safe workplaces such as hand washing and social distancing as being at the discretion of employers, when in fact they are requirements of the law.'
Check IOSH magazine's website and social media for practical guidance and legal advice on managing your workforce returning to work.