DWP failed to enforce social distancing at Leeds office

The DWP's Quarry House office in Leeds. Joe Kirby Photography / Shutterstock

The Department for Work and Pensions has failed to enforce social distancing at an office in Leeds, a health and safety inspection has found.

A group of staff were pictured congregating around a desk, not adhering to social distancing guidance, during a recent inspection by officers from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

They visited Quarry House in the east of the city on 27 August after receiving a report of a “workplace concern”. The BBC has reported that two staff at the office have tested positive for Covid-19.

A report produced following the inspection, which was seen by the BBC, said: “You are failing to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of your employees/agency staff at work because you have not implemented necessary measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.”

Other problems identified in the report included a line manager briefing staff around a desk, with the group not following social distancing; walkways and stairwells being designated for two-way travel despite not being sufficiently wide; walkways passing too closely to usable desks; and breakout areas lacking “do not use” signs.

It said that the DWP had conducted a risk assessment for the office being about 50% full, which the HSE considered “may be ambitious and unrealistic” and risked “congestion”.

An HSE spokesperson said: “We received a workplace concern and this has been processed in line with our concerns handling procedure. Following a site visit, a letter (Notification of Contravention) was sent to DWP.”

The spokesperson told Personnel Today they were unable to reveal further details about the inspection’s findings at this stage.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We take the health and safety of staff extremely seriously and have implemented Covid-secure measures across our sites to ensure they comply with government guidelines.

“We have taken urgent action to rectify all issues identified by the HSE.”

The government has set a target of getting around 80% of civil servants to return to Whitehall by the end of September.

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