The current pandemic has undoubtedly impacted the vast majority, if not all of our daily lives in terms of both our working and personal circumstances.
The Reporting of Injuries Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (“RIDDOR”) requires employers, the self-employed and people in control of work premises to report certain serious workplace accidents, occupational diseases and some dangerous occurrences (near misses).
In light of the pandemic, the Health and Safety Executive (“HSE”) have issued further specific guidance with regard to the reporting requirements relating to cases of, including deaths from, COVID-19 where it appears that the contraction of the virus is as a result of a person’s work.
So in what circumstances should I make a RIDDOR report?
The guidance states that you should make a report when one of the following circumstances applies:
- There has been an accident or incident at work which has or could have led to the release or escape of the COVID-19 virus. In this situation the report must be logged as a dangerous occurrence.
- If a person at work/employee has been diagnosed as having COVID-19, and that diagnosis has been attributed to that person’s work. In this case the report should be logged as a disease case.
- Where a worker/employee dies as a result of COVID-19, having been exposed to the virus through their work.In this case, the report should be logged as a work-related death due to exposure to a biological agent.
So how do I know whether contraction of the COVID-19 virus was work-related?
In essence, whether or not the contraction of the virus is work-related and therefore whether as an employer you need to complete a RIDDOR report, will be very much decided on a case by case basis, and that decision will need to be made on the evidence available.
There needs to be “reasonable” evidence that the employee / worker’s contraction of the virus was through the workplace, as opposed to any other cause.
When deciding whether or not there has been an increased risk of becoming exposed to COVID-19 and therefore whether contraction of the virus via the workplace was likely, factors that may be considered include:
- Whether or not the nature of the person’s work activity has increased the risk of them becoming exposed to the virus;
- Whether or not there was any specific, identifiable incident that led to an increased risk of exposure;
- Whether or not the person’s work directly brought them into contact with a known virus hazard without effective control measures as set out in the relevant Government guidance which applied to each industry being in place, and whether steps such as social distancing or the provision of PPE have been put in place and provided accordingly.
Many other factors may be considered before the decision that the contraction of the virus may well be work related is made, and as stated above, this will be dependent upon the employee/worker involved and their specific circumstances.
The HSE have advised that extensive enquiries are not required to reach the decision, and that RIDDOR reports are not required to be made on a precautionary basis where there is no evidence to suggest that occupational exposure was the likely cause of an infection i.e., a report is not required simply where an employee / worker has contracted COVID-19 but there is no link to the workplace.
However, where it does appear that there has been exposure to the virus, and that it was likely to have been caused an employee’s work, then the advice has to be that employers should err on the side of caution and report accordingly.
It is also noteworthy that in cases where a person has died, in order to RIDDOR report, the death must have been caused by an occupational exposure and the disease must have been a significant cause of that employee/worker’s death for it then to be reportable.
Medical evidence such as a death certificate is likely to provide key information when employers are considering whether a RIDDOR report is required.
Is there a time limit for submitting a RIDDOR report?
If an employer is required to submit a RIDDOR report following information received which suggests that exposure to the virus is likely to be caused by exposure through work, any report should be filed as soon as possible, and certainly within 10 days.
It is a legal requirement for employers to report workplace accidents, and incidents that result in employees being injured or becoming ill, and the consequences of not doing so could result in a criminal conviction for failure to record and report.
Courts can impose custodial prison sentences of up to 2 years for the responsible person for failure to report, and the business could receive an unlimited fine.
Additionally, if a claim for personal injury is brought against the business in the future by that employee or their dependents in the case of a deceased employee, it may be that your insurer would not indemnify if you have failed to comply with your duties to report the incident accordingly.
It is vitally important therefore that employers are aware of their requirements as detailed above to report where appropriate.
Should you require any assistance or information about RIDDOR reporting, or should you have any further Health and Safety queries or issues arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic or otherwise, please do not hesitate to contact the team at Prettys on 01473 232121.