The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has confirmed that businesses should ensure that their work plant and equipment remain safe to use in spite of the potential challenges when carrying out legal requirements for thorough examination and testing.
Critical industries and those within their supply chain will be prioritised for engineer surveys to ensure that they can continue to operate and get the insurance cover they require. Generally, if a business is still open it is either essential within its own right or providing products or services to those that are.
Engineer surveyors have been defined as ‘key workers’ during the Covid-19 crisis.
Engineering inspection regulations during the Covid-19 outbreak
Currently the HSE and Health and Safety Authority's (HAS) approach is that as yet no exemption or relaxation of the law is currently being considered in relation to thorough inspections. The HSE have also said they will keep the situation under review and do not have any plans to issues any exemptions to current regulations at this time.
They confirm that if an examination of a piece of equipment is overdue, responsibility remains with the client and a pragmatic approach should be adopted. Items overdue for examination should not be used until the examination has been completed.
Advice to maintain thorough examinations and testing
The below is advice from the HSE to ensure businesses maintain a thorough examination and testing regime:
- Ensure social distancing measures in the workplace are not seen as a barrier to carrying out examinations.
- For businesses that are currently closed, you must still give access to visiting inspectors unless your equipment has been temporarily de-commissioned.
- There may be occasions where inspectors are not available to meet demand as they prioritise critical industries.
- If a business experiences problems in undertaking a scheduled examination as you cannot access inspection services, they should adopt a risk based process to determine whether there are steps they can take to safely continue to use equipment or stop using it.
The overarching legal obligation is to ensure that equipment is safe to use.
Clients should focus on the highest risk items first and work with their competent person (engineer surveyors) to balance ongoing maintenance condition against the likelihood of the item failing catastrophically. The main engineering insurers, who employ the majority of engineering surveyors, are warning there is a shortage of capacity due to illness and isolation requirements. Primary focus will be given to premises where the most vulnerable are located such as hospitals, care homes, utilities, food chain and key manufacturers. There is also likely to be a backlog of inspections as things start returning to normal.
The HSE's enforcement approach during the Covid-19 outbreak
The HSE will adopt a pragmatic and proportionate approach towards enforcement action for non-compliance with statutory requirements which are directly attributable to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Their usual enforcement response will be to take no action if the only failing is that thorough examination and testing, (TE&T), is not carried out by the required date.
Equipment should only be used outside its test regime if it can be demonstrated that it is critical for essential work and that it can still be operated safely.
Businesses must be able to demonstrate that they have made all reasonable attempts to have examinations and testing carried out, made a thorough assessment of any increased risk and taken appropriate action to manage it.
The information contained in this bulletin is based on sources that we believe are reliable and should be understood as general risk management and insurance information only. It is not intended to be taken as advice with respect to any specific or individual situation and cannot be relied upon as such. If you wish to discuss your specific requirements, please do not hesitate to contact your usual Towergate Insurance Brokers adviser.
* Please note that some of the advice contained in this link may not be able to be adopted due to the shortage of engineer surveyors.