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RIDDOR obligations in relation to COVID-19

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Under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR), employers are under an obligation to notify the relevant authority regarding certain workplace incidents.

Given the HSE have recently begun inspecting premises to ensure they are COVID-secure, this insight will set out the essential information employers must be aware of regarding their RIDDOR obligations and how they interact with COVID-19. 

What is RIDDOR?

All employers are under an obligation under RIDDOR to notify the relevant authority when there is an unintended incident at work which has led to certain serious workplace accidents, occupational diseases or specified dangerous occurrences suffered by an employee at the workplace. 

The reporting obligations are set against the overarching provisions in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 which aim to protect, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health & safety and welfare of employees and other 3rd parties whilst at work and on your premises. These provisions extend to require you as employers to carry out regular and relevant risk assessments, and this means not only must your existing practices be reviewed in the context of COVID but in most cases, you must also carry out a COVID specific risk assessment and publish that risk assessment on your website. 

Does COVID-19 need to be reported under RIDDOR? 

Where a worker has been diagnosed with Covid-19 and there is reasonable evidence to suggest that it was caused by occupational exposure, there will be a duty to notify the relevant authority under RIDDOR. 

HSE guidance suggest there are 3 possible circumstances where Covid-19 may be reportable under RIDDOR:

  • Dangerous occurrences – an accident or incident at work that could have caused the escape of Coronavirus e.g. a lab worker accidentally smashing a glass vile containing the virus leading to exposure. This must be reported as a dangerous occurrence; 
  • A worker has been diagnosed as having Covid-19 and attributable to an occupational exposure to Coronavirus. This must be reported as a case of disease; and 
  • A worker dies as a result of occupational exposure to Coronavirus. This must be reported as a work-related death due to exposure to a biological agent.

Latest published figures

The HSE has recently published the latest figures concerning Covid-19 reports in the workplace for the timeframe 12 April to 11 July 2020. The key take-away is that 7,971 disease notifications of COVID-19 were made with regard to workers where occupational exposure was suspected, including 119 death notifications. Moreover, the number of COVID-19 notifications made to enforcing authorities has generally fallen week-on-week since the beginning of May and is now at the lowest weekly level since week commencing 12 April. The HSE has stated all cases that have been reported to it and Local Authorities are being assessed and investigations initiated where incidents meet their published Incident Selection Criteria. 

For more information on the essential steps an employer must take to mitigate the risk of transmission of Covid-19 in the workplace, see our latest insight.

Legal commentary

It could potentially be difficult to establish whether or not one or more individuals contracted Covid-19 as a result of their work.  Any diagnosis will need to satisfy the requirement of “reasonable evidence” that the exposure arose from the workplace. 

The biggest question is clearly whether employers will be prosecuted if employees are exposed to Coronavirus whilst at work and it can be demonstrated that the systems in place were insufficient to guard against the risk. 

Crucially, a failure to report a notifiable circumstance is a criminal offence, and any outbreaks of Coronavirus in the workplace will need careful assessment to establish whether the outbreak arose directly of exposure to risk whilst at work

The RIDDOR hub on the HSE website remains a useful resource for guidance and the latest developments concerning its interaction with Covid-19.

If you are the subject of any investigation arising from your COVID arrangements or are unsure when a RIDDOR notification is required, you should obtain immediate legal advice and the Regulatory team at Gateley will be able to assist you.

More information

For more information regarding RIDDOR obligations, in relation to COVID-19, please contact our expert listed below.

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