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Indirect Health & Safety challenges for businesses due to COVID-19

Written by Martin Coppard 29 April 2020

Indirect Health & Safety challenges for businesses due to COVID-19

Whether it’s ensuring adequate hygiene levels and social distancing measures are in place, or setting staff up to work remotely from home and helping them cope with their mental health, there’s already been a lot of information published about how businesses should deal with the direct Health & Safety challenges of COVID-19.

However, it’s not just the direct effects of the virus that you need to plan for. Here are four indirect Health & Safety challenges that your business might face:

Staff shortages

With potential increased sickness and staff self-isolating at home, the remaining workforce may be under pressure. As such, this could increase the likelihood of accidents due to higher fatigue, loss of concentration, or staff being tempted to remove protective devices in order to speed up a process. 

You must therefore ensure staff are aware that usual safety protocols aren’t to be compromised and that you ask managers to keep a close eye on individual workloads and any staff showing signs of stress or tiredness.  It’s also important to manage customer expectations and not accept unrealistic, unachievable production targets.

Training and competence

If you’re short staffed, you may be inclined to ask workers to multi-task, in order to cover the role of absent colleagues.  However it’s important that you don’t ask or allow staff to operate machinery if they haven’t been properly trained and signed off as competent to do so.

Safe Systems of Work

If new working practices have been introduced to accommodate the risks posed by the virus, you may find that your staff can no longer adhere to your documented Safe Systems of Work.  Remember, whilst COVID-19 has presented some new and unexpected challenges for workplace safety, it doesn’t mean that other significant risks are no longer a concern.

If your Safe Systems of Work rely on close supervision for instance, you’ll need to maintain this standard.  If this is impossible, amend the methods of work accordingly.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Currently, some PPE (particularly respiratory masks) are in short supply and it might not be possible to replenish significant quantities for some time, as manufacturers around the world adjust to meet the unprecedented global demand. 

Although this situation is beyond your control, don’t ignore the problem. Instead, look into alternative methods of working which limit the need for PPE to be used.  After all, PPE should always be the last resort control measure – try to eliminate or control the risk at its source in the first instance.


Despite the current focus being on COVID-19 in the workplace, it’s important that your usual Health & Safety standards aren’t compromised. For further advice on maintaining a a healthy and safe workplace during these unprecedented times, speak to us on 0330 008 5555 or e-mail riskmanagement@swib.co.uk.

Categories: Risk Management

Martin Coppard

Martin Coppard

I am a director of Sutton Winson Consultancy Services Ltd, which delivers a range of risk management solutions. I joined Sutton Winson in January 2000 and have derived a great deal of satisfaction from helping our clients achieve significantly preferable insurance terms, and other financial benefits, by embracing proactive risk management. 

I am a Graduate Member of the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), a member of the Business Continuity Institute (BCI), a Chartered Insurance Risk Manager and hold the ACII (Advanced Diploma of the Chartered Insurance Institute). 

work 01444 251 162

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