Voice of the Employee

The boss of the body in charge of monitoring and enforcing workplace safety has defended its response to Covid workplace complaints. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has received 134,000 complaints since the crisis started, but issued only 192 enforcement notices.

“We aren’t naïve, we fully understand some employers are not trying to do the right thing,” its boss told the BBC. Concerns have been raised about bosses who are failing to protect workers.

In the year before the pandemic struck, the HSE issued 7,000 notices in response to more than 32,000 complaints.

HSE chief executive Sarah Albon said many firms had acted when warned, meaning further action was unnecessary. “It’s really about employers’ willingness to work with us co-operatively to put things right before it gets to the point of formal notices,” she told Radio 4’s Today programme.

Formal notices from the HSE can mean that bosses have to improve conditions to bring them up to health and safety standards, or that they have to stop work immediately.

Lesser measures that inspectors can take include issuing advice or a caution. Ms Albon pointed out that the HSE had also carried out more than 32,000 site visits since the start of the pandemic.

Under current lockdown rules, people who can work from home effectively should do so, including in areas such as healthcare. Staff should only travel to their workplace if they cannot do their job remotely, while bosses should have a range of measures in place to stop the spread of the virus.

“The vast majority of employers have been doing the right thing and have been trying to do the right thing,” Ms Albon said, although she admitted the organisation had seen a “significant increase” in the number of complaints.

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