Bureau Veritas encourages food firms to take heed of Covid-19 guidelines amid HSE reporting changes

May. 28 2020

With the UK Government recently announcing its COVID-19 roadmap out of lockdown, Bureau Veritas is advising food businesses to review health and safety measures in the workplace, to ensure that they protect staff against the risk of coronavirus transmission. 

Earlier this month, the government released its highly-anticipated guidelines to help workplaces become ‘COVID-secure, including specific advice for factories, plants and food outlets offering takeaway and delivery. The guidance includes measures such as increasing the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning, complying with the 2m social distancing guidelines, and where this cannot be followed in full, considering whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate and if so, using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as a secondary control.

At the same time, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has also changed its requirements for RIDDOR reporting – The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 - to include COVID-19. This means it’s now a company’s responsibility to report whether an unintended incident at work or possible exposure to the virus, has led an employee to contract COVID-19.

With this in mind, global health and safety expert Bureau Veritas is urging the sector to carefully review, tighten and consistently monitor their processes for managing the risk of COVID-19 transmission – stating that failure to do so could risk a visit from the HSE.

Tracy Wain, Food Safety Technical Manager at Bureau Veritas, said: “While much of the food production sector will already have implemented varying degrees of COVID-19 control measures, now is the time to review these and ensure their robustness in meeting the new government guidelines. Meanwhile, for the hospitality sector, which has been in near shutdown since 23 March, preparing to re-open in July as expected presents a myriad of challenges when it comes to implementing safe practices such as social distancing.

“Further to this, the recent HSE announcement that the regulator may be carrying out visits to businesses thought not to be adhering to the new coronavirus reporting process, makes the need for firms to review their safety strategy even more important.”

For Bureau Veritas, a leading testing, inspection and certification company with extensive experience in the food manufacturing sector, the key to tackling the coronavirus head-on is having clear policies, systems and processes in place that are regularly monitored in line with the evolving situation.

Tracy adds: “First and foremost, it’s imperative for businesses to map out their social distancing. This may result in a change in shift patterns, with more shifts and less people operating in each rota and creating clear messages for employees and customers. It’s vital to note that PPE is not a safe and viable primary control within the workplace, and hygiene practices such as regular and effective handwashing and social distancing must always be adhered to where possible.

“With so much riding on safe work practices to reduce the risk of the country encountering a second wave of the virus, it is important that food businesses take heed of the continually-updating advice from the government and look at ways to protect the health of their employees. While the new guidelines may be difficult to decipher and putting them into practice could seem like a complex task, our experts at Bureau Veritas are on hand to help you understand your responsibilities and work with you to create a carefully considered strategy suitable for your business.”

Bureau Veritas offers a wide range of robust certification and compliance services aimed at the food sector. The health and safety team has recently released its ‘Restart Your Business with Bureau Veritas' service, providing a voluntary, independent assessment of a firm’s COVID-19 readiness to re-open their business premises. Download the full pack here.