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COVID-19 - Safety, Health and Environment Regulatory: STOP PRESS - Public Health England updates industry action cards for managing COVID-19 outbreaks

  • 15 February 2021 15 February 2021
  • UK & Europe

  • Insurance & Reinsurance

COVID-19 - Safety, Health and Environment Regulatory: STOP PRESS - Public Health England updates industry action cards for managing COVID-19 outbreaks

We previously reported[1] on the workplace action cards issued by Public Health England (PHE) to certain business sectors setting out various key steps to quickly identify and contain any potential COVID-19 outbreak, to include when to contact the local PHE Health Protection Team[2].

Those action cards have recently been updated to change the criteria for contacting your local PHE Health Protection Team - https://coronavirusresources.phe.gov.uk/reporting-an-outbreak/resources/.

Confirm, contacts, check, call

The action cards have been developed to cover a range of businesses and organisations, and identify and provide guidance on the following key steps to be taken by businesses:

  • Checks to confirm a possible outbreak of COVID-19
  • Steps to contain an outbreak of COVID-19, namely by identifying close contacts of the confirmed case in your setting
  • Check your workspace with reference to the government's COVID-19 guidance, and reviewing the adequacy of your risk assessment
  • When to call your local PHE Health Protection Team

When to call your local PHE Health Protection Team - what has changed?

The guidance in box 3 on when to contact PHE has changed from requiring notification of outbreaks of 5 cases within 14 days to:

We have seen PHE visits to our clients swiftly followed by subsequent  Health and Safety Executive (HSE) spot inspections and, whilst we remain in the midst of a lockdown, we expect PHE to respond swiftly to any reported outbreaks.

How can we help?

If not managed properly, an intervention by PHE could potentially lead to the involvement of the HSE or local authority and, in a worst case scenario, morph into a formal criminal investigation.

With this in mind, we have advised and represented numerous businesses in recent months regarding their COVID-19 policies and arrangements following regulatory inspections and disclosure requests, including businesses that have implemented our recommendations and subsequently been deemed compliant by PHE, the HSE and Local Authorities.

We can support you and your business through any regulatory intervention by advising on:

  • Effective arrangements that can be put in place to manage your interactions with PHE, the HSE and local authorities,
  • Responses to regulators' requests with a view to evidencing the company's compliance and minimising the prospect of further enquiries, potential enforcement action, and associated adverse PR,
  • Whether the matter is RIDDOR reportable. Only RIDDOR reporting when required is essential, not least because it often results in a formal investigation, and
  • Challenging notifications of contravention, improvement notices and prohibition notices.

Separately, we also have significant experience of proactively conducting audits, covered by legal professional privilege, of a company's COVID-19 risk management arrangements to "strength test" whether they address the relevant PHE/government/HSE/industry body guidance, and recommending improvements (which have subsequently been deemed compliant by both the HSE and local authorities).

If you would like to discuss any aspect of our offering, please contact us on sheregulatory@clydeco.com.

Author: Rod Hunt, Partner, and Luisa Lister, Professional Support Lawyer.

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