Guidance issued by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK offers more clarity on the reporting of coronavirus cases in the workplace under RIDDOR regulations (The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013).
The guidance confirms that a report must be made in the case of ‘dangerous occurrences’, ‘cases of disease’ and ‘work related deaths’. Importantly it allows the responsible person, usually the employer, to use judgement and assess whether it is reasonable that the occurrence gave rise to significant risk. The guidance says:
Dangerous occurrences are certain unintended, specified events, which may not result in a reportable injury, but which do have the potential to cause significant harm. For an incident to be reportable as a dangerous occurrence, the incident must have resulted (or could have resulted) in the release or escape of coronavirus, that is, led to a possible or actual exposure to coronavirus.
The assessment does not require any complex analysis, measurement or test, but rather for a reasonable judgement to be made as to whether the circumstances gave rise to a real risk or had the potential to cause significant harm.
Cases of disease: exposure to a biological agent
When deciding if a report is required, the responsible person must make a judgement, based on the information available, as to whether or not a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 is likely to have been caused by an occupational exposure, that is, whether or not there is reasonable evidence that a work-related exposure is the likely cause of the disease.
Work-related deaths due to exposure to a biological agent
For an incident to be reportable as a death due to occupational exposure to coronavirus there must be reasonable evidence that a work-related exposure caused the worker’s death.
The responsible person should notify the enforcing authority by the quickest practicable means, without delay, and send a report within 10 days. The report should specify death due to exposure to a biological agent using the ‘case of disease’ report form.
Elizabeth de Jong, Director of Policy at FTA, said that she was pleased that the HSE had amended its RIDDOR guidance to provide employers with greater flexibility to decide whether a confirmed COVID-19 case is likely to be due to occupational exposure, and as such, requires the submission of a report. “Before this addition, our employer members were concerned that the lack of clarity on the guidance would have left them vulnerable to excessive or unfair litigation, as well as facing an administrative burden when resources are already strained.”
More information is available from HSE.