HSE ‘putting firms on the spot’ over COVID

The HSE say they carried out over 1,000 spot checks in the first few weeks after it resumed inspections.

The safety inspectors restarted “proactive” inspections of construction sites at the back end of May. Figures for the three weeks between 26 May to 18 June show that the inspectorate carried out what it termed “spot checks” at 1,055 businesses across all sectors.

In recent years, funding cuts have been blamed for a reduction in HSE inspections. However, in May this year, the Government made an additional £14m available for the HSE to respond to the increased number of concerns from workers.

According to IOSH , between 9 March and 29 June, the HSE received 23,569 COVID-related contacts, of which 7784 were COVID-related concerns, 9944 were COVID-related calls and 5871 were COVID-related advice requests.

Of the 3856 businesses contacted between 26 May and 2 July, 2386 spot checks were carried out by a mixture of phone checks and site visits.

The organisation defines spot checks to include phone calls as well as site visits. It did not break down the figures between types of sector.

107 firms who were subject to the initial bout of spot checks were subject to follow-ups from inspectors.

A spokesman said: “HSE inspectors and local authority inspectors are visiting workplaces across a range of sectors following up reports or concerns about safety in the workplace including over COVID-19 and ensuring compliance. HSE is carrying out proactive checks to ensure that appropriate measures are in place to protect workers from COVID-19.

“Putting duty holders on the spot, and checking on how they are managing risks has always been part of our regulatory approach.”

The HSE has, however, halted its release of RIDDOR statistics relating to the coronavirus, in what a spokesman said would be a temporary move while it refines its data collection processes. Up to the beginning of May, the HSE said there had been 198 RIDDOR reports of dangerous occurrences and 71 fatal-disease reports relating to COVID-19 across all industries. This was in the first few weeks!

One of OJ Safety’s clients, a production facility in Leeds, was subject to an unannounced visit by inspectors. The company owner stated the HSE went through every process from arrival on the premises through to leaving the site at the end of the day. The inspectors asked about their policies and processes, together with all measures they were taking to deal with COVID-19. The inspector, on this occasion, found no issues on the site.

Last month Mike Clancy, general secretary of the Prospect union, which represents HSE inspectors, warned that the organisation would not be able to carry out spot checks with much frequency after it restarted work. “The common understanding of what the HSE would do is much at odds with what it can do, due to its level of resourcing,”.

Working safely during coronavirus guidance here

Martin Blythe,


OJ Health and Safety Solutions Ltd