This is a subject that is causing confusion and lots of unnecessary reports to the HSE.
We have written about this before, not least during the height of the first lockdown. At that stage, people were considering how to keep open businesses and were concerned about the reporting requirements and the consequences.
Many employers are still unclear whether a Coronavirus infection in the workplace needs to be reported to HSE. The simple answer is that, in almost all cases, it does not. Which is hardly surprising because with the levels of infection so far, the HSE would have been unable to cope.
So when should it be reported?
Much of the reporting and guidance around the need to report under RIDDOR has been technical and not very clear.
But, the HSE published clear guidance in the summer which they have recently updated. This states that they do not want to hear from everybody who has had Coronavirus in the workplace. They are only interested in infections resulting from “occupational exposure” to the virus.
What does this mean in practice for the average employer?
Most employers do not have “occupational exposure” to Coronavirus, even though their employees might be exposed to it at home, at work and elsewhere.
Occupational exposure is very tightly defined. It applies to those whose job is to work with the virus, say in research or testing, or with those who are known to be infected, like in a specialist ICU ward for Coronavirus patients.
Just working with the general public, or pupils in a school, or other work colleagues who might be infected, then you are not working in an occupation associated with Coronavirus. Therefore, the infection cannot be “occupational exposure”.
This means that for most organisations, there is no need to report a Coronavirus infection in the workplace to the HSE.
You would, however, need to report more than one occurrence of Coronavirus, or suspected occurrence, in the workplace within 14 days to the local health protection team. They will then give guidance if any further action needs to be taken, depending on the severity of the outbreak.
If you are in any doubt as to whether you are working in an occupation connected to Coronavirus, then in reality you are probably not.
Researchers into the vaccine, nurses working in ICUs for Coronavirus patients understand the environment in which they are working. And many in the National Health Service have different reporting requirements in any case.
Finally, it is worth stating that people involved with implementing the eagerly awaited Coronavirus inoculations are not actually being exposed to the live virus themselves, so providing the right safe systems of work are in place, should be at no greater occupational exposure than many other health care job roles.
If you still feel you are working with Coronavirus in an occupational sense and you need to report it, then the HSE has published guidance here.
Our Consultants would be pleased to advise you on any element of the issues arising from this newsletter.