Health and Safety executive chief executive Sarah Albon said ‘we can prosecute people who fail to do the right thing’.
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Companies that break coronavirus rules could face prosecution, a national boss has said.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has threatened to come down hard on rule breakers as some people begin to return to work this week following the Covid-19 lockdown.
Chief executive Sarah Albon told the Downing Street daily briefing on Tuesday: “Inspectors can require businesses to do certain things – enforcement notices, requiring them to take particular kinds of action.
“In the most extreme circumstances if there is a risk of serious injury to an individual employee they can issue a notice which prohibits certain activities from taking place.
“Breach of those kind of enforcement notices is essentially a criminal offence and we can prosecute people who fail to do the right thing.”
Her comments come hours after she told a Westminster board companies that cannot abide by safety practices should not reopen.
Ms Albon told the Work and Pensions Select Committee that between March 9 and May 7, the HSE had received more 7,149 coronavirus-related calls and online queries from people concerned about their safety at work.
She said, while many of those concerns were dealt with “immediately”, about 1,400 were referred to the workplace safety regulator’s inspectors for further investigation.
In 321 cases, inspectors spoke with employers, who were required to show what safety measures they had put in place, while 27 were written to, with orders for improvements to be made.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma also encouraged employees who feel unsafe to use the reporting systems in place.
He told the Downing Street daily briefing: “Employers have a duty to keep employees safe in the work place, that is absolutely enshrined in law.
“If somebody feels their work place is not safe they have to take that up with their employer.
“If they don’t feel they are getting any traction they absolutely should get in touch with the Health and Safety Executive or the local authority.”