‘Health and safety’ has had a rather negative and tiresome image in the past, often derided as a perfectionist, risk-averse excuse for fuss and nonsense. The Health and Safety Executive was set up in 1975 to reduce work-related death, injury and ill-health, and until 2010 had the image of being overzealous and pernickety, encouraging the UK ‘compensation culture’ of blame and claim for every accident. A 2010 review called ‘Common Sense – common safety’ seemed to change the focus and actually we have much for which to thank HSE. Of course there has been overzealous advice and action, but overall the UK rates of death in the workplace are now admirably low, with dramatic reductions in deaths and injuries over the last few decades in sectors like farming, mining and construction. It may be concluded that a degree of fuss and nonsense is worth putting up with, in view of the lives and grief saved, and accountability nailed where flagrant negligence causes harm to workers.
The main area of health and safety at work we’ve all been focused on for over a year is of course COVID-19. Now we are looking toward the possibility – hopefully – of a more general return to the workplace, HSE have published a really useful sign-posting Covid-19 web page, which brings together the main official sources of information. Have a look at it here.
If you are managing or concerned about a return to work, this HSE website page is a really good place to go to and access the official guidance and advice. If managers look there and reasonably apply the relevant information to their own setting, that will be a great head start. This can contribute to a potential defence of reputation and liability if problems do arise. If you or your workers have specific concerns, it will also help strengthen your position if you take professional advice on your own particular setting and issues. The employment team at Ellisons Solicitors is able and willing to work with you on this more positive stage, of managing staff as they return to the post-lockdown workplace.