‘Coronavirus hotline would help prevent workplace safety breaches’, say Lib Dems

Employees should have a coronavirus hotline to blow the whistle on unsafe working practices, a former top executive demanded tonight.

Campaigners fear millions of workers could be exposed to risks of contracting Covid-19 as they return to shops, offices and factories.

The Liberal Democrats called on the Government to help businesses draw up risk assessments to keep employees safe as they go back – and set-up a dedicated phone line so they can anonymously alert the Health and Safety Executive to concerns.

The recommendation is included in the party’s Safe Return to Work package, which has been drawn up with advice from its Business Taskforce, chaired by former Siemens UK chief executive Juergen Maier.

Mr Maier said: “Most employers are acting carefully and responsibly as they bring people back to work, but inevitably there will be some who cut corners or get things wrong.

“It’s vital that employees have an easy, anonymous way to blow the whistle when that happens, so that any unsafe practices can be stopped.

“That’s why we’re proposing a new, dedicated coronavirus safety hotline for workers to report their concerns.”

The package also calls for workplace inspections to be classified as “essential work’” so officials can ensure firms are operating safely.

And it demands an extra £16million for the HSE on top of £14million additional cash already announced by the Government.

Mr Maier added: “To get through this crisis safely and begin to grow the economy again, the Government must help employers to keep their workers safe.

“It should focus support on the smaller businesses who are less used to conducting rigorous risk assessments – and it must reverse recent cuts to the Health and Safety Executive so it can provide the support employers and workers need.”

Acting Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said: “The coronavirus crisis is leaving families and businesses across the country facing terrible financial hardship.

“We must ensure no one is left behind as the lockdown is eased and we begin on the long road to economic recovery.”

The HSE website offers a phone number and online inquiry form for firms which “need help and advice on how to protect people from coronavirus (Covid-19) in your workplace”.

Under a heading “Reporting a health and safety issue”, it adds: “If you see something in a workplace that you think is breaking health and safety law and is likely to cause serious harm, you can report it.”

A Government spokesman said: “Nobody should be forced to work in an unsafe workspace.

“That is why every business should support staff to work at home where they can, carry out an assessment of the risks in the workplace, and take steps to mitigate those, as is the law, to reduce the spread of the virus.

“We have set out detailed guidance to help businesses do so.

“We have also given the HSE additional funding to support them to ensure businesses are implementing the new guidance on working safely during coronavirus and follow up on any concerns from workers online and on their helpline. We will continue to review further funding needs.”

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