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Labour condemns decision not to classify Covid as a ‘serious’ workplace risk

LABOUR has condemned the “outrageous decision” not to re-classify Covid-19 as a “serious workplace risk” following a review by Health and Safety Executive (HSE) bosses. 

After management reconsidered the classification in April, the government agency announced on Wednesday that it would not change, despite reports that labelling coronavirus as a “significant risk” — less severe than “serious” —  meant HSE inspectors did not have the power to halt dangerous working.

It comes after the Office for National Statistics identified 15,263 deaths of working-age people with coronavirus between April 2020 and last month. 

Official statistics also show there were 3,872 workplace outbreaks in the same period, yet not a single employer has faced legal repercussions for breaching pandemic regulations.

Shadow secretary of state for employment rights and protections Andy McDonald said: “[This] decision shows that the government is putting working people and the wider public at risk.

“With rising case numbers of the Delta variant [first detected in India], this decision is deeply irresponsible and shows that the government is failing to keep working people safe.”

A spokesperson for HSE — which, according to think tank IPPR, has suffered a real-terms funding cut of 53 per cent since 2009 — said it was “wholly inaccurate” to say it does not take Covid-19 seriously. 

“Time and again we have explained the word ‘significant’ has a very specific meaning in [our] enforcement management model which is a highly technical document.

“The classification does not, and has never had, any impact on the range of enforcement actions HSE inspectors can take, and we remain determined to help employers keep their workplaces Covid-secure.”

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