HSE to unravel workplace’s role in Covid virus spread

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HSE is taking part in a UK study to understand more about how coronavirus might have been transmitted in workplaces, MPs heard at a Select Committee last week.

The National Core Studies programme is enabling the UK to use health data and research to inform near and long-term responses to the virus.

HSE is leading on one of six elements of the programme, relating to transmission of Covid-19 in workplaces and transport. It will aim to answer essential policy and operational questions about the coronavirus pandemic.

Professor Andrew Curran will be leading the project to understand the role of the work environment in transmission of the virus.

Speaking at the Work and Pensions Committee on 17 March, Professor Andrew Curran said: “We are looking at a hugely detailed investigation which will collect samples from workers, it will include questionnaires, genomic analysis of the virus which will give us better information about where virus is coming from. Only through doing those very detailed intensive studies will we really understand the role of the work environment in transmission of the virus.”

Curran was responding to a question from Siobhan Baillie, Conservative MP for Stroud, who asked whether the RIDDOR regulations for capturing statistics on health and safety had “failed us in the pandemic.”

Professor Curran responded: “The regulations were designed many years ago to provide a particular input into HSE’s thinking and decision making. The situation we are facing now is complex.”

He said that the analysis will help us to understand the complex issues, and unpick the role of workplaces in what is a ‘continuous transmission risk’. “Covid doesn’t respect space, it’s an any time, anywhere kind of transmission risk. To unpick components of that transmission pathway can be very difficult.

“We think about those other factors such as transport to work, socio-economic factors, so while I agree RIDDOR is a piece of the puzzle, it is just a piece and needs to be seen in context of the entire picture. Using that as well as many other data sources to get to grips with what has been going on.”


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