The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has been warned by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for failing to implement adequate safety measures to protect staff working in its Leeds office. Photographs circulating in the media show narrow walkways close to operational desks as well as staff gathered round a PC screen. The office was inspected on 25 August 2020 as part of the HSE’s current initiative to ensure COVID safe workplaces.
The lapse in safety measures was reported by The Mail on 11 September 2020 and the HSE is reported to have told the DWP that “You are failing to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of your employees at work because you have not implemented necessary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
The Mirror, which also reported the issues, quoted the HSE as stating that there “doesn’t appear to be any consideration or assessment” of the potential for crowding at entrance and exit doors. There were no “do not use” signs on tightly-packed breakout pods and areas where staff might sit. And many walkways “are little more than 1m wide and pass very close to desks that are designated as useable”.
The General Secretary of the PCS union, Mark Serwotka, said the Government had “failed staff and the wider community by not adhering to basic health and safety legislation. There is a very real danger of a second Covid spike. This incident makes a mockery of DWP’s insistence that offices open until 8pm to the public when they can’t even maintain social distancing.”
Businesses are reminded of the importance of assessing the risks posed by COVID in the workplace and the legal requirement to implement controls to eliminate or reduce those risks as far as reasonably practicable.
If you require advice for your business, please contact one of the Jacksons Team.