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Accidents at Work – Employers legal obligations remain during Covid-19

The Covid-19 outbreak has brought unprecedented challenges to our lives, both at home and at work.

Many industries have shutdown operations and/or furloughed their staff whilst lockdown is in place, whereas a great many other businesses remain operational and have increased recruitment to cope with increased demand. Retail and FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) production are good examples of businesses which have seen increases in profit and headcount during this crisis.

The fact that there is an ongoing public health emergency does not override the legal obligations placed upon in respect of employee safety. Employers continue to be placed under a number of statutory duties, including:-

  • Ensure the safety of the workplace and equipment within it.
  • Produce an assessment of the risk(s) posed to the health and safety of employees and make employees aware of those risk and how they should be reduced or avoided.
  • Provide appropriate lifting aids to eliminate the need for manual handling, if possible.
  • Implement measures to reduce the amount of manual handling carried out by employees
  • Provide PPE where required
  • Provide training and comprehensible instructions in respect of the work required and any potential risk to the employee’s health and safety
  • Provide suitable access equipment and safety measures where the work is carried out at height
  • Implement suitable safety measures to reduce risk to employees dealing with hazardous substances
  • Keep records of accidents occurring within the workplace
  • Report accidents to the HSE where the same meets the reporting criteria.

 

There is perhaps a temptation on the part of employers to put temporary employees to work as soon as possible, without providing the level of training, work equipment or PPE given to a permanent employee, however the law precludes this and requires the same standard of care be given to temporary employees as their permanent counterparts.

Furthermore, an employee who has not received proper training and instruction can be a danger to their colleagues and a potential liability to their employer. Would you allow an employee to use a piece of equipment such as a baler or fork lift truck if they have not been properly trained to use it?

It is also in the national interest for employers to ensure that they meet their legal obligations to take care of key workers in order to ensure that increased demand for their goods and/or services can be met and secondly, to reduce further potential strain upon the NHS caused by injuries to employees requiring treatment.

Whilst on the one hand, it is positive that businesses are recruiting to meet demand and help with the extraordinary national effort to overcome the current crisis, however it must also be remembered that key workers should be looked after and treated with the standards of care set out by the law.

Will Signing Solutions During Covid-19

Following a nationwide rise in people wishing to make sure their affairs are in order by writing Wills during the current Covid-19 pandemic, the Wills team at Clark Willis have been busy adapting how clients can both provide instructions, and more importantly sign Wills, whilst safeguarding clients and meeting the strict formalities for execution in the presence of two witnesses. Will signing made the BBC news headlines yesterday with reports that Wills were being signed on the bonnets of cars as solicitors sought to ensure Wills are executed correctly.

It is a legal requirement that a Will must be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) are currently considering whether to temporarily adjust these requirements in light of the current pandemic, especially where people are self isolating or are in intensive care with Corona virus, but at present the current rules prevail, meaning that solicitors are having become much more creative on how Wills can be signed.

For those who are still attending work places with colleagues who may be prepared to act as witnesses means some Wills can be signed remotely with relatively few issues however in all other circumstances, unusual solutions are having to be deployed by the team to ensure that Wills can still be executed correctly whilst observing social distancing requirements for the health and safety of our customers and staff.

Our Darlington office has a secluded, rear yard where the team have erected a Will Signing Station to enable Wills to be signed on site and in the fresh air for those who are able to attend the town centre. Parking is available at the entrance to the Will Signing Station meaning clients are able to drive up,  sign their Wills in the presence of two staff members, and then drive away.

Where it may not be possible for clients to attend the office, for example due to those under self isolation, we are able to attend client’s homes and witness the documentation either externally, maintaining social distancing, or by observing signing through a window or patio door where a suitable viewing location is accessible. Whilst this later method may seem comical at first, enabling witnesses to be in the presence of the person signing and visually see them sign, means the formalities of executing a Will can be met.

Alex Spurr, a Partner of the firm, specializing in Will writing said:

“As a member of STEP and Solicitors for the Elderly who have both been lobbying the MoJ, I hope that they consider the validity of Wills during the current pandemic where there is simply no option to have a Will witnessed correctly, but until restriction are lifted, with a bit of ingenuity, we are able to adapt how we do things to get the job done.”

The team are still able to assist people to put Wills in place and have been holding virtual meetings via video call, over the telephone and through email and postal questionnaires.  The firm as a whole has also become much more flexible with appointment times to work around shift patterns of those on the front lines with availability on evenings and weekends. In addition, the firm have also introducesd a 20% discount for all NHS staff across its range of services to say thank you to those keeping the country safe.

If you wish to ensure your affairs are in order, contact our team on 01325 28111 or email enquiries@clarkwillis.co.uk.