As UK workplaces look gradually to open back up as lockdown restrictions are lifted, the TUC has warned that many employers are failing to follow Covid-secure rules and keep workers safe.
The union body’s biennial survey of more than 2,100 workplace safety representatives found employers failing on risk assessments, social distancing and PPE during the pandemic.
Covid-19 health and safety
More than a quarter of safety reps said they were not aware of a risk assessment in their workplace having been carried out in the past two years, despite a legal requirement to consult them.
One in ten (9%) said their employer had not carried out a risk assessment, while 17% said they did not know whether a risk assessment had taken place. Of those who said their employers had carried out a risk assessment, more than a fifth (23%) said they felt the risk assessments were inadequate.
More than three-quarters of safety representatives (83%) said employees had tested positive for Covid-19 in their workplace, while more than half (57%) said their workplaces had seen a “significant” number of cases.
Less than one quarter (24%) of respondents said their workplace had been contacted by a Health & Safety Executive inspector, or other relevant safety inspectorate in the last 12 months. More than a fifth (22%) said their workplace had never been visited by an HSE inspector, as far as they were aware.
A quarter (25%) of representatives said their employer did not always implement physical distancing between colleagues through social distancing or physical barriers. Just over a fifth (22%) said their employer did not always implement appropriate physical distancing between employees and customers, clients or patients.
More than a third (35%) said adequate PPE was not always provided. Almost two-thirds of safety representatives (65%) said they are dealing with an increased number of mental health concerns since the pandemic began. Three-quarters (76%) cited stress as a workplace hazard.
The research also found that one in four managers working in the food and drinks industry were unaware of a Covid risk assessment in their workplace.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Too many workplaces are not Covid-secure. This is a big worry for people expecting to return to their workplace soon. And it should be a big priority for ministers too. We must have robust health and safety in place to reduce the risk of infections rising again when workplaces reopen.”
Separately, a TUC survey has concluded less than half (45%) of companies are giving staff paid time-off to get vaccinated.
Almost one in seven firms surveyed had introduced a policy of “no jab, no job” for new or existing employees, it added.