Press statement for immediate release, 3 April 2020
Hazards Campaign demands action to save workers’ lives
The Hazards Campaign has written to MPs and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) calling for the HSE to close down organisations which continue to place profits before people by exposing workers to unacceptable risks.
Workers are being forced to face foreseeable and preventable risk of exposure to Covid-19 at work and it is the HSE’s duty to intervene to protect them, when employers are breaching their legal health and safety duties to prevent those risks.
The Government’s contradictory policy on preventing transmission and spread of Covid-19 at work is causing deaths and is nothing less than ‘social murder’.
The Government states ‘stay at home; if you go out, stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people at all times; wash your hands as soon as you get home; do not meet others, even friends or family; you can spread the virus even if you don’t have symptoms’ and at the same time say ‘only go outside for food, health reasons or work (but only if you cannot work from home)’ (https:www.gov.uk/coronavirus) The Government is keeping non-essential businesses open. This leaves workers being forced to go out to work, in conditions which place them in close contact with other workers, without the handwashing and cleaning hygiene precautions stated in Public Health Guidance and exposed to this deadly virus. Covid-19 is killing people of all ages, many of whom were previously healthy as well as those with underlying health risks.
As workers who develop Covid-19 will die at home or in hospital, there is a need to ensure their deaths are recorded at work, reported to HSE, Local Authorities under RIDDOR, and investigated later for work-related causes. This is essential information for future assessment of the effectiveness of workplace and government strategies on protecting workers and reducing Covid-19 transmission at work and will be essential in preventing deaths in future pandemics.
In addition, the HSE and Local Authority inspectors must be available to be contacted by concerned workers being threatened or forced to work in dangerous conditions, to be able to report negligent employers.
Janet Newsham, Chair of Hazards Campaign said:
“These workers have to travel to work on public transport further exposing themselves and other more essential critical workers to contracting the virus. Essential workplaces need to keep running for safety reasons or because they are producing critically needed equipment or supporting critical services. The health of these essential workers, including health care workers, must be protected while commuting to and from work but their ability to maintain safe, physical distance is made impossible by the many non-essential workers also commuting.
“Workers themselves are having to force employers to ‘do the right thing’ when it should be the Government and its health and safety enforcement agencies, taking the lead. The HSE must make clear unambiguous statements, that if employers in non-essential work cannot maintain conditions to meet public health guidance, then the workplace is unsafe and demand and follow that up with enforcement action to halt production, until the spread of the virus has been controlled. Government must provide a decent living wage for all workers in this situation.
“The Hazards Campaign also demand that, unless PPE is available at the correct standard, essential critical workers should limit their interventions to the protective level of their PPE, so that these workers are not exposed to the virus. In Spain there has been an estimated 14% of health workers diagnosed with the virus. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-spain-cases/health-workers-make-up-nearly-14-of-spains-coronavirus-cases-idUSKBN21B1MF) We must not run an underfunded, under-resourced health service with ‘expendable workers’. We need every health care worker to survive to help increase the chance of survival of all citizens.”
“We are witnessing Government reducing PPE standards to meet the levels of PPE available and NOT producing quickly the safest levels of PPE to protect all workers. Critical health workers need and deserve the best standards and no compromise. In the UK we still have some of the most advanced manufacturing facilities, we have the expertise and capability to produce all the PPE and equipment we need and we demand that the Government steps up its efforts to provide what is necessary.
“The HSE’s mission is ‘to prevent death, injury and ill-health in Great Britain’s workplaces – by becoming part of the solution’. (https://www.hse.gov.uk/aboutus/insidehse.htm ) Hazards Campaign demand that the HSE does just that – it’s duty – to enforce employers legal duty to prevent illness, injury and death at work!”
Further information, press only
Contact: Janet Newsham
Notes for Editors
The Hazards Campaign is a UK-wide network of resource centres and campaigners. The Hazards Campaign supports those organising and campaigning for justice and safety at work.