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As the prevalence of coronavirus increases in the general population, it will be very difficult for employers to establish whether or not any infection in an individual was contracted as a result of their work. This is likely to continue as the country looks to return to work from the lockdown.

Consequently, diagnosed cases of COVID-19 are not reportable under RIDDOR unless there is reasonable evidence suggesting that a work-related exposure was the likely cause of the disease. This decision will have to be determined by the employer/business.

In some limited circumstances, where an individual has either been exposed to or contracted COVID-19 as a direct result of their work, those instances could become reportable under RIDDOR either as a Dangerous Occurrence (under Regulation 7 and Schedule 2, paragraph 10) or as a disease attribute to an occupational exposure to a biological agent (under Regulation 9 (b)) or as a death as a result of occupational exposure to a biological agent under Regulation 6 (2).

 

What is RIDDOR?

 

RIDDOR stands for the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013. The Health and Safety Executive states that RIDDOR puts duties on employers, the self-employed and people in control of work premises (the Responsible Person) to report certain serious workplace accidents, occupational diseases and specified dangerous occurrences (near misses).

 

What Counts as a Reportable Incident?

 

For an incident to be reportable as a Dangerous Occurrence, the incident must result (or could have resulted) in the release or escape of the coronavirus. An example could include a vial known to contain the coronavirus being smashed in a laboratory, leading to people being exposed.

For an incident to be reportable as a disease due to occupational exposure to a biological agent, there must be reasonable evidence suggesting that a work-related exposure was the likely cause of COVID-19. Such instances could include, for example, frontline health and social care workers (e.g. ambulance personnel, GPs, social care providers, hospital staff etc) who have been involved in providing care/ treatment to known cases of COVID-19, who subsequently develop the disease and there is reasonable evidence suggesting that a work-related exposure was the likely cause of the disease. A doctor may indicate the significance of any work-related factors when communicating their diagnosis.

For an incident to be reportable as a death due to occupational exposure to a biological agent, there must be reasonable evidence suggesting that work-related exposure to coronavirus was the likely cause of death. A doctor may indicate the significance of any work-related factors when communicating the cause of death.

 

How Can Employers Prevent Incidents?

 

COVID-19 has been listed as a notifiable disease under the Health Protection (Notification) Regulations 2010. This change in the law requires GPs to report all cases of COVID-19 to Public Health England.

Under The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, employers have a general duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of their employees at work. HSE considers that if an employer is following the relevant PHE guidance for their sector in terms of controlling the public health risks, they will be taking reasonably practicable precautions to control workplace risks.

HSE has published guidance for working safely during the coronavirus and sector-specific guidance is available on the GOV.UK website. The duty is on the employer to review the information and make the decision based on the evidence they have prior to returning to work.

You can read the latest information and advice in relation to Health and Safety at work and also find guidance about COVID-19 for health professionals and other organisations.

If you have any concerns about RIDDOR or returning to work, speak to our Risk Consultant

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