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RIDDOR Reporting of COVID-19: Advice for Employers
By Jane Lavery, Senior Occupational Health Nurse at Staywell Occupational Health – 17th April 2020
RIDDOR was first introduced in 1980 and has seen updates since this time including new advice related to Coronavirus. RIDDOR requires employers to report any major incidents, near misses or dangerous occurrences to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive).
In relation to coronavirus, a dangerous occurrence could be where there has been an event which has led to an exposure. HSE provide the example that this could be where be a lab worker accidentally smashes a glass vial containing coronavirus, leading to people being exposed. There would, of course, be specific safety arrangements expected for a lab that is handling a novel virus. A dangerous occurrence does not include where the virus passes from person to person in the workplace because this doesn’t involve an escape of the virus.
Another way to report under RIDDOR would be to declare a case of disease. This is a more likely route for RIDDOR reporting. Coronavirus is not an occupational disease but it is a biological agent. The HSE require that, where there is reasonable evidence that someone diagnosed with COVID-19 (the illness caused by Coronavirus) was likely exposed to Coronavirus because of their work, this must be reported as a case of disease report.
Written proof of diagnosis from a medical practitioner is required before reporting to RIDDOR and the doctor may indicate where there are any work-related factors contributing to the diagnosis. It may seem difficult to determine a work related cause of COVID-19 but for some professions, such as health care workers or laboratory workers, a reasonable connection can be made between staff who develop the illness after looking after patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19. The requirement for written proof of diagnosis also applies in the event of a death related to exposure to Coronavirus.
It must be remembered that RIDDOR reporting does not seek to identify blame but serves to support the HSE in monitoring trends, facilitates analysis of how risks arise and may lead to investigation of more serious events. RIDDOR reporting does not always lead to investigation but there remains a duty for the employer to report in the circumstances laid out by the HSE. Employers and health professionals should remember that RIDDOR does not override common law in relation to consent to disclose a health condition but it is hoped that those who do become ill as a result of a work related exposure will want to contribute to an effective analysis that helps to protect others.