Are work related Covid 19 deaths going unreported?
Under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (‘RIDDOR’) employers are required to report a work-related Covid case to the Health and Safety Executive. However, since April 2020, whilst the Office for National Statistics identified 15,263 people of working age who have died from Covid – it is understood from forthcoming analysis by the TUC that employers have only notified the Health and Safety Executive of 387 work related Covid deaths in the same period.
Shelly Asquith, TUC health and safety officer, has said of these figures: “It is just not credible that only 2.5% of working age Covid deaths are down to occupational exposure. We believe employers are massively under-reporting the number of people who have died after catching Covid at work”. Asquith added that the low level of reporting had endangered workers by preventing inspectors intervening in unsafe workplaces and could lead to lives being put at risk again in the future.
Whilst underreporting cannot be discounted this is unlikely to provide a full explanation of these figures. Indeed this interpretation belies the obvious difficulty of identifying the source of infection. Given the prevalence of Covid 19 in the general population as well as the fact that the majority of those who carry the virus are asymptomatic, for the employer, distinguishing between occupational exposure rather than community acquired infection will be hugely challenging.
One can only assume that this is also a challenge for the HSE, for, as yet, since the pandemic began, whilst there have been 3,872 Covid outbreaks in workplaces and 4,253 outbreaks in educational settings, there has not been a single prosecution for breaching Covid regulations.
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