RIDDOR (The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) is the law that requires employers – and others in charge of work premises – to report and keep records of certain incidents at work.
For Covid-19 cases, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has clarified that, in certain circumstances, employers must report new cases of Covid-19. This includes cases of: an unintended incident at work which has led to someone’s possible or actual exposure to coronavirus; where a worker has been diagnosed with Covid-19 and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work; and if a worker dies as a result of occupational exposure to coronavirus.
The change to the RIDDOR guidance to incorporate Covid-19 does not change the position that serious diseases in the workplace must be reported. The concern for employers with Covid-19 cases will be the ambiguity in the context of the current virus. Due to testing numbers and the number of actual cases likely being much higher than official reporting, it may not be possible to establish whether someone has or had coronavirus which originated in the workplace.
This does not require employers to report every confirmed case, only those cases where there is reasonable evidence that the employee was exposed to Covid-19 in the workplace. For certain industries such as supermarkets, it will be difficult to determine where the employee contracted the virus and the business will need to decide whether there is reasonable evidence.
Although the basis of the legislation and obligations on employers has not changed, the challenges they are facing to keep businesses open clearly have. You should review each case on an individual basis as HSE can take enforcement action against businesses who are not compliant with the guidance, both for the incident itself and how the reporting is handled. If you think any cases are reportable, you must do so under RIDDOR.
HSE has published specific guidance for businesses, which includes testing of face masks to avoid transmission and implementing social distancing measures. Apart from the reports under RIDDOR, HSE can identify employers who are not taking action to comply with current Public Health England guidance and issue enforcement notices or specific advice to employers.
To comply with these obligations, we recommend employers carry out regular risk assessments focusing on the current guidance and adjust the workplace according. Employers should also consider implementing internal updates to their employees on the precautions which they are putting in place to protect their health and safety.
We also recommend that employers keep up-to-date with the ongoing updates from the government and HSE.
The coronavirus pandemic is an ever-changing situation. The information in this article was correct at the time of publishing (1 May 2020).