The HSE has published a summary of the cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) reported to it under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013. What do the statistics show?
In April 2020 the HSE clarified that some cases of COVID-19 would be reportable under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) . Its guidance stated that employers would need to report certain incidents of coronavirus, though only those falling within three fairly narrow categories.
The first was where an unintended incident at work caused possible or actual exposure to coronavirus, such as where a vial is broken in a laboratory. This type of incident is regarded as a dangerous occurrence under Regulation 7 of RIDDOR and applies when a biological agent has been released, regardless whether anyone was actually affected. In practice there shouldn’t be many of these incidents and it’s notable that within the HSE’s statistics, there are no notifications of dangerous occurrences involving coronavirus.
The second category of reportable incident is for workers diagnosed as having COVID-19 and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work. This is regarded as a case of occupational disease caused by exposure to a biological agent and is outlined in Regulation 9 of RIDDOR . The example the HSE gives is that of a healthcare professional being diagnosed with the virus after treating infected patients.
The third type of event requiring a report is one where a worker dies as a result of occupational exposure to coronavirus. The same type of thought process would apply when determining reportability.
It’s safe to say that there is likely to be some under-reporting, and this is acknowledged by the HSE in its statistics table. However, the numbers reported are still of interest. From 10 April to 19 September 2020 employers made 9,786 disease notifications of coronavirus in workers where occupational exposure was suspected, including 152 death notifications. More than 75% of reports related to workers in the health and social work sector (including hospitals, residential homes and day care).
Since July when lockdown ended, more reports have arisen in other industries, such as warehousing, education and food manufacture. The number of coronavirus notifications made to the enforcing authorities peaked at 1,183 per week in late April and then fell gradually to an average of 150 per week throughout July and August. 84% of the coronavirus reports received were from workplaces in England, 9% in Wales and 7% in Scotland.
Tip. Only submit a report where there’s an actual diagnosis and a clear occupational link. You don’t need to make a report to the HSE every time someone self-isolates or tells you that they have a cough.
Warning. Some employers believe it’s best to report “just in case”, but don’t do this. It wastes your time and the inspectors’. It also risks you being on the receiving end of an investigation which may not be warranted.
Tip. Although you might not have reportable cases there’s still value in keeping records of incidences of self-isolation etc. These will be useful in tracking where your precautions might need to be strengthened.