48% of British Workers’ Covid Complaints Are About Lack of Social Distancing

48% of British Workers’ Covid Complaints Are About Lack of Social Distancing

01st February 2021

A survey has shown that almost half of the Covid-related complaints sent to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are about companies that fail to put social distancing rules in place.

The Full Report

This report was made by looking at the 5,585 issues raised by workers writing to the HSE about coronavirus risks since March 2020. Out of this total, 48% related to social distancing and 8% were related to not being provided with suitable personal protective equipment

25% of the complaints made about a lack of social distancing are from the months of October and November, showing that not all businesses had reacted quickly to the need for new ways of working.

The analysis was carried out by GQ Littler, and their partner Sophie Vanhegan pointed out that it was the duty of employers to ensure that social distancing is carried out even when it is very difficult to do so. She went on to say that failing to comply with health and safety regulations is a serious matter.

Vanhegan warned of the risk of reputational damage in this respect too, especially if a company suffers a Covid-19 outbreak that springs from a failure to comply with the current measures. She said that they need to have “robust policies” and also have to keep on reviewing them to make sure that they are followed.

The HSE can investigate any cases of possible non-compliance and this can lead to prosecution or naming and shaming. If a worker is harmed due to non-compliance, then this could lead to a tribunal claim as well.

In a couple of different studies at the end of 2020, by Honeywell and Wakefield, it was revealed that 71% of British workers said that they don’t feel safe at work. They also found that a mere 45% of UK workplaces currently have suitable safety protocols in place for their staff.

How This Should Be Done

It should be remembered that the government advice is still for anyone who can work from home to do so, using remote working tools as needed. If this isn’t possible, companies should look at other ideas such as staggering shifts to keep people apart as much as possible.

When workers need to be present at the same time, they should stay a couple of metres apart. Bosses should also look to reduce congestion by opening up different entry and exit points and a one-way flow where possible.

Construction is one of the industries where separate guidelines have been drawn up. In general terms, they are similar to the rules used in other types of businesses, but in this sector workers need to be mindful of additional risks and the mandatory use of equipment such as a fall protection post.

Frances O’Grady is the TUC general sectary, and she said that it is crucial that employers continue to review their Covid-19 risk assessments. O’Grady pointed out that managers should consult with staff before any possible return to work.