On Wednesday 9 April, Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD) hosted a webinar for members of the North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA) in relation to managing health and safety matters following the COVID-19 outbreak.

The session recapped the legal duties on employers to take all reasonable steps to provide a safe working environment, including taking steps to stop the spread of virus.

A focus was placed upon the risk assessment process within the automotive industry, highlighting the need to:

  • Consider the risk to everyone who plays a role in the business from employees to contractors, and from visitors to delivery drivers
  • Proactively and frequently engage the workforce to ensure that you are aware of individuals who are at higher risk and are able to make appropriate adjustments
  • Consider the risks to health and safety as a result of changing any existing control measures, policies and procedures e.g. by implementing social distancing measures.

The practical control measures automotive businesses can take to stop the spread of the virus was also discussed. The clear message being to adhere to Public Health England/government guidance, and ensure that it is reviewed frequently as it continues to evolve. It was noted that the guidance had recently been updated to provide specific advice to logistics, transport, and manufacturing and processing businesses.

The remainder of the session covered specific issues relevant to the automotive industry including the current approach of the regulator, the HSE, to:

  • Site inspections, enforcement action and general approach to regulating.
  • Statutory inspection and testing of workplace equipment e.g. power presses and lifting equipment
  • Routine health/medical surveillance
  • Reporting cases of COVID-19 under RIDDOR.

These issues are all addressed in our briefing note available here

The legal issues to consider in relation to health screening of people being allowed back on to site was also raised, with reference being made to the current ICO guidance covering the data protection considerations in this regard.