With the continuing challenge of COVID-19 Secure and the need to balance these new, as well as existing, compliance requirements for your organisation and buildings, we are continuing to look at this theme.

Following a number of similar questions and enquiries from customers, and via colleagues, we are considering the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) this month in the context of COVID-19.

As usual, below are three questions for you to consider by investing 15 minutes of your time to review your processes and procedures. In addition to the questions supporting information is provided for you on each of the topic areas.

  1. Is COVID-19 covered under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR)?
  2. When does the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) become relevant for COVID-19 and what do I report?
  3. What are the latest statistics on COVID-19 and the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR)?

1. Is COVID-19 covered under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR)?

Yes, if an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19 and there is reasonable evidence to suggest that it was caused in the workplace or through occupational exposure. This is due to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, being considered a biological agent for the purposes of RIDDOR. In such cases, employers would be required to report the case(s) to the relevant enforcing authority under the Regulations.

On the 10th April 2020, the statutory disease reporting form was also amended to enable better identification and to help with the management of COVID-19. In addition, at the same time, further guidance was issued around reporting requirements for COVID-19 deaths under RIDDOR.

However, there is no requirement to report incidents of disease or deaths of members of the public, patients, care home residents or service users from COVID-19 under RIDDOR.

2. When does the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) become relevant for COVID-19 and what do I report?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have published regularly updated guidance on when RIDDOR reports should be made for COVID-19. This was last updated to date on 5th October 2020 and due for further update on the 2nd November 2020 (if not occurring before this time). The guidance is also aimed at the person reporting, usually the employer (known as the ‘responsible person’).

Here is the link to the guidance https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/riddor/index.htm

There are three distinct circumstances under which you’d be required to make a report under RIDDOR:

1. Dangerous occurrence - for example where a workplace accident/incident at work has (or could have) led to the release or escape of SARS-CoV-2.

“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.”

Any event of this type should be reported under RIDDOR as a “dangerous occurrence”. Information and examples of what is not and what is reportable as a dangerous occurrence is provided through the HSE website link above.

2. A case of the disease (exposure to a biological agent) – Where COVID-19 is diagnosed in an employee/worker which is attributed to a work-related occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2.

“When deciding if a report is required, the responsible person (usually the employer) 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.”

Do remember though that there must be reasonable evidence to the workplace or work activity being linked with an increased risk of becoming exposed to SARS-CoV-2. This in turn could be influenced by (HSE advice):

  • “Whether or not the nature of the person’s work activities increased the risk of them becoming exposed to coronavirus?
  • 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 coronavirus hazard without effective control measures, as set out in the relevant PHE guidance, in place such as personal protective equipment (PPE) or social distancing. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list.”

Other factors could include:

  • “Cases where a registered medical practitioner has highlighted the significance of work-related factors when communicating a diagnosis of COVID-19 - these cases would also be reportable.”

The HSE further advise that, “For an occupational exposure to be judged as the likely cause of the disease, it should be more likely than not that the person’s work was the source of exposure to coronavirus as opposed to general societal exposure. Such cases may not be easy to identify when COVID-19 is prevalent in the general population.”

However, another example from the HSE indicates “Work with the general public, as opposed to work with persons known to be infected, is not considered sufficient evidence to indicate that a COVID-19 diagnosis is likely to be attributable to occupational exposure.” Such cases would then not be reportable under RIDDOR.

Similarly, there is no requirement for RIDDOR reporting on a precautionary basis if there is no indication of likely occupational exposure as the cause of infection, or for employers (responsible persons) to carry out ‘extensive enquiries’ in determining if a diagnosed SARS-CoV-2 infection is related to a work activity.

Any incidence of this type, where work-related exposure is likely, it should be reported under RIDDOR and specified as “exposure to a biological agent” using the case of disease report form. Information on “what constitutes a diagnosis” and “guidance on making a judgement and reasonable evidence” is provided through the HSE website link above.

Further information can also be found at:
https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/riddor/riddor-reporting-further-guidance.htm#disease-law

3. A worker dies as a result of occupational exposure to coronavirus

Again, to be reportable there must be reasonable evidence that it was work-related exposure to SARS-CoV-2 that led to the fatal illness.

Any incidence of this type should be reported under RIDDOR as a “work-related death due to exposure to a biological agent” using the case of disease report form. The HSE also advise, “The responsible person should notify the enforcing authority by the quickest practicable means, without delay, and send a report within 10 days.” Information on “work-related deaths from coronavirus: What the law says” and “guidance on making a judgement and reasonable evidence” is provided through the HSE website link.

There is no blanket approach to RIDDOR reporting and COVID-19 and each case, if and as and when it arises, needs to be assessed on its individual circumstances – although you do need to be very mindful of the requirements and what needs to be done.

With numbers of reported cases increasing, a new “tiered” phasing of restrictions, see our insight dated 15th October 2020 https://www.assurityconsulting.co.uk/knowledge/insights/tiered-covid-19-restrictions-come-into-place-in-england and variable numbers of people working, the likelihood of you needing to report a case could also increase. What and how you report – and if you need to – therefore should form part of your COVID-19 management strategy/procedures. Seeking a source of professional help and advice could also prove beneficial.

3. What are the latest statistics on COVID-19 and the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR)?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published figures from the 10th April 2020 and up to week ending 19th September 2020 show:

  • “9,786 disease notifications of COVID-19 in workers where occupational exposure is suspected were reported to enforcing authorities (HSE and LAs), including 152 death notifications;
  • Around 85% of all worker reported cases (fatal and non-fatal) since 10th April were in HSE enforced workplaces;
  • The majority of reports received since 10th April are for workers in the Health and Social Work sector (including for example hospitals, residential homes and day care). Over three-quarters of reports were recorded by employers against these activities;
    84% worker COVID-19 reports received since 10th April were from workplaces in England, 9% in Wales and 7% in Scotland;
  • The number of COVID-19 notifications made to enforcing authorities has fallen from a peak of 1,183 report in the week commencing 26 April, averaging around 150 reports per week throughout July and August although there are signs that the number of reports are starting to increase again;
  • All cases that are reported to HSE and Local Authorities are being assessed and investigations initiated where incidents meet our published Incident Selection Criteria.”

Here is the link to this information https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/coronavirus/index.htm

Assurity Consulting is the leading expert in workplace health, safety and environmental compliance. For more information, please contact us on tel. +44 (0)1403 269375 or email us.

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