It is the duty of an employer (known as the ‘responsible person’) to report all RIDDOR incidents to the HSE, but are all Covid-19 cases classed as RIDDOR? In short, No.
There is no requirement under RIDDOR to report incidents of disease or deaths of members of the public, patients, care home residents or service users from COVID-19. The reporting requirements relating to cases, or deaths from, COVID-19 only apply to occupational exposure, that is, as a result of a person’s work.
You should only make a report under RIDDOR when one of the following circumstances applies:
- An accident or incident at work has, or could have, led to the release or escape of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). This must be reported as a dangerous occurrence which means an occurrence which arises out of or in connection with work and includes an occurrence attributable to:
– the manner of conducting an undertaking
– the plant or substances used for the purposes of an undertaking, or;
– the condition of the premises used for the purpose of an undertaking or any part of them.
Dangerous occurrences are certain unintended, specified events, which may not result in a reportable injury, but which do have the potential to cause significant harm. For an incident to be reportable as a dangerous occurrence, the incident must have resulted (or could have resulted) in the release or escape of coronavirus, that is, led to a possible or actual exposure to coronavirus. The assessment requires simply a reasonable judgement to be made as to whether the circumstances gave rise to a real risk or had the potential to cause significant harm.
Some examples of what is not and what is reportable as a dangerous occurrence can be found here on the HSE website
2. RIDDOR regulation 9 (b) says where, in relation to a person at work, the responsible person (usually an employer) receives a diagnosis of any disease attributed to an occupational exposure to a biological agent, the responsible person must follow the reporting procedure.
When deciding if a report is required, the responsible person must make a judgement, based on the information available, as to whether or not a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 is likely to have been caused by an occupational exposure, i.e. whether or not there is reasonable evidence that a work-related exposure is the likely cause of the disease. Whilst this should be considered on a case by case basis, there are some general principles which can assist in making this judgement.
There must be reasonable evidence linking the nature of the person’s work with an increased risk of becoming exposed to coronavirus.
For an occupational exposure to be judged as the likely cause of the disease, it should be more likely than not that the person’s work was the source of exposure to coronavirus as opposed to general societal exposure. Such cases may not be easy to identify when COVID-19 is prevalent in the general population.
Work with the general public, as opposed to work with persons known to be infected, is not considered sufficient evidence to indicate that a COVID-19 diagnosis is likely to be attributable to occupational exposure. Such cases do not require a report.
The judgement should be made on the basis of the information available.
3. A person at work (a worker) has been diagnosed as having COVID-19 attributed to an occupational exposure to coronavirus. This must be reported as a case of disease. A diagnosis normally means a registered medical practitioner’s identification (in writing, where in relation to an employee) of new or worsening symptoms.
Unlike the usual diagnosis of an occupational disease, many cases of COVID-19 are currently being confirmed without a registered medical practitioner’s written diagnosis, for example, on the basis of laboratory test results. HSE has decided to adopt a pragmatic approach in the current (highly unusual) circumstances and not require those results to be confirmed by a registered medical practitioner before a report is made under RIDDOR.
Responsible persons should consider any official confirmation of COVID-19 infection such as from a public testing body as being equivalent to a registered medical practitioner’s diagnosis and they must make a judgement, based on the information available, as to whether or not a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 is likely to have been caused by an occupational exposure, that is, whether or not there is reasonable evidence that a work-related exposure is the likely cause of the disease.
The report should specify a disease due to exposure to a biological agent and use the case of disease report form.
4. A worker dies as a result of occupational exposure to coronavirus. This must be reported as a work-related death due to exposure to a biological agent. For a death to be reportable under RIDDOR there must be reasonable evidence that the death was caused by an occupational exposure to coronavirus.
The responsible person must make a judgement, based on the information available, as to whether a confirmed COVID-19 death has been caused by an occupational exposure to coronavirus resulting from the person’s work. The disease must have been a significant cause of the person’s death.
Work-related deaths due to exposure to a biological agent
For an incident to be reportable as a death due to occupational exposure to coronavirus there must be reasonable evidence that a work-related exposure caused the worker’s death.
The responsible person should notify the enforcing authority by the quickest practicable means, without delay, and send a report within 10 days. The report should specify death due to exposure to a biological agent using the “case of disease” report form.
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If in doubt on aspects of RIDDOR reporting (either Covid-19 based or general reporting), our consultants are always happy to help so feel free to contact us.