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Businesses were marked Covid compliant without being inspected, data reveals

PUBLISHED: 17:10 07 October 2020

Businesses in Camden and Haringey were rated as Covid secure by the Health and Safety Executive without underdoing any physical inspection. Picture: Getty Images / iStockPhoto.

Businesses in Camden and Haringey were rated as Covid secure by the Health and Safety Executive without underdoing any physical inspection. Picture: Getty Images / iStockPhoto.

Getty Images / iStockPhoto

Businesses in Camden and Haringey have been marked as “compliant” with coronavirus safety laws without being inspected.

Haringey councillor Sarah James, cabinet member for health, said she believed the Health and Safety Executive needed more resources. Picture: Haringey Council.Haringey councillor Sarah James, cabinet member for health, said she believed the Health and Safety Executive needed more resources. Picture: Haringey Council.

Data obtained by the Ham&High shows almost half of businesses “spot-checked” by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) were only checked by telephone.

In Haringey, the HSE – responsible for workplace safety – listed 20 premises as having been spot-checked between June and August.

But only eight received a site visit. The other 12 checks were conducted remotely, over the phone.

Sarah James, Haringey’s cabinet member for health, said the council was conducting its own spot-checks but that she was concerned by the figures.

Councillor Danny Beales, Camden's cabinet member for business, said concerns had been raised about the HSE's capacity from the beginning of the pandemic. Picture: Camden Council.Councillor Danny Beales, Camden's cabinet member for business, said concerns had been raised about the HSE's capacity from the beginning of the pandemic. Picture: Camden Council.

“The resourcing isn’t there,” she said. “The government isn’t funding in the way it initially said it would at the beginning of the crisis.

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“I have some sympathy with the HSE if they are not able to get around and do actual, physical checks on every business. I can see that that would be a huge task. But the idea that most of them are happening by phone call is clearly far from ideal.”

In Camden, 13 spot-checks were recorded, of which four were by phone.

Danny Beales, Camden’s cabinet member for business, said the data reinforced concerns which were raised at the start of the pandemic about the HSE’s ability to cope.

“It was a significant responsibility for an organisation which had been disinvested in for many years,” he said. “It was suggested right at the start that this would be a potential problem.

“When vulnerable people were being encouraged back to work and had concerns, the government’s blanket response was, just contact the HSE. So it is very concerning that they aren’t actually going and checking. It is unfortunately not surprising. Government has got to adequately resource the HSE and local authorities.”

A HSE spokesperson said the telephone calls were made by “specially trained operators, who follow a set of questions compiled by HSE experts on Covid compliance.”

The body said it would make sure standards were being met by “visiting a number of the businesses who have told us they have all the right measures in place. This ensures what we are being told is happening in practice.”

It added: “Where businesses fail to comply, this could lead to prosecution.”


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