Business chamber chief says companies should carry out “coronavirus risk assessments” before returning to work

John Bridge from Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce. Picture; ARCHANT

John Bridge from Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce. Picture; ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Employers must abide by health and safety regulations for workers when businesses begin to restart as the coronavirus crisis recedes, the boss of Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce has said.

John Bridge, chief executive of the organisation which represents businesses across the county, has been analysing new recommendations released by the Government this week as it starts to lift the lockdown imposed to help combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said the guidance was not statutory, but provided a practical framework for businesses to consider before restarting operations.

Mr Bridge said employers were expected to work alongside unions and workers to make sure safety requirements were in place before work resumed and that all businesses would have to carry out an appropriate coronavirus risk assessment in consultation with unions and employees.

“The guidance does not supersede any legal obligations relating to health and safety, employment or equalities,” he said.

“It is important that business, and or employers, continue to comply with existing obligations, including relating to individuals with protected characteristics.”

Mr Bridge said: “The Government is clear that workers should not be forced into an unsafe workplace. Businesses should share the results of their risk assessment with their workforce. If possible they are encouraged to consider publishing the results on their website, and there is an expectation that all businesses with over 50 workers would do so.”

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He said the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had made best practice risk assessments available.

Mr Bridge said that under the new guidance businesses would have to do everything “reasonably practicable” to minimise hazards to workers, although it was clear the risk of coronavirus could not be eliminated completely, and that firms would have to minimise this by taking reasonable measures.

He said the new Government plans included a five point notice for display in the workplace showing that a risk assessment had been completed and that steps had been taken to protect employees.

Mr Bridge said the HSE could take action ranging from offering specific advice to employers through to issuing enforcement notices to secure improvements.

There was also a mechanism for employees to report poor practice.

Mr Bridge said they would continue to update members as more information became available, especially in relation to the furlough scheme.