HSE’s assessment that Covid-19 is not a “serious” workplace risk has been met with outrage and disbelief among workers’ unions and the Labour party.
The UK’s safety regulator, HSE has three categories of risk – serious, significant and minor.
Employment minister Mims Davies, admitted in a written statement that HSE has decided the category ‘significant’ in the EMM [Enforcement Management Model] table best supports inspectors in making sensible, proportionate regulatory decisions.
“The definition is that the effects are non-permanent or reversible, non-progressive and any disability is temporary. This definition refers to the likely response of the working population as a whole, not taking account of individuals with a particular resistance or susceptibility,” she writes in her written answer of 8 February.
Responding, Andy McDonald MP, Labour’s Shadow Employment Rights and Protections Secretary, said: “Given that almost 113,000 people have died from Covid-19, and as many as one in five people are suffering from the effects of ‘long Covid,’ it is beyond belief that the Government does not consider the virus to be a serious risk to working people.”
“With workplace health and safety enforcement almost non-existent, and after a decade of cuts that has left agencies under-resourced, the Government must urgently re-categorise Covid-19 as a serious risk and bring in new safety rules and enforcement to protect workers’ lives.”
Ian Hodson, president of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) said it jarred that the statement was released on the same day that the government announced 10 year prison sentences for going on holiday and not admitting where you have been. “Strange going on holiday is punishable but not protecting workers is acceptable,” he tweeted.
Rory O’Neill, editor of the campaigning magazine Hazards tweeted: “At the moment the top management at the UK’s workplace safety regulator does not [care], and workers are dropping like flies as a result. It is time for a change.”
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