Havering businesses were marked Covid secure without being inspected, data reveals
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Havering businesses have been marked as “compliant” with coronavirus safety rules without even being inspected.
Eighty per cent of local businesses “spot-checked” by the national Health and Safety Executive (HSE) were only questioned by telephone, according to data obtained by the Romford Recorder.
The revelation came in the same week that council leader Damian White warned Havering’s infection rate was continuing to rise and London was at “a tipping point”.
Gillian Ford, chairman of Havering’s Residents Associations (HRA), said the figures were concerning because she had recently received complaints about businesses allegedly failing to comply with rules.
She said: “Spot-checks should be taken in person. If we can go into shops and restaurants, so can the HSE.”
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Between June and August, the HSE conducted “spot-checks” at 46 Havering workplaces. But the Recorder can reveal that 37 were checked “remotely” by telephone.
The revelation drew criticism from across Havering’s political spectrum.
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Ray Morgon, leader of the Residents’ Group, said: “It is difficult to see how they can determine everything is in order over the telephone.”
Conservative Jason Frost, cabinet member for health, agreed, saying: “With Covid-19 infections rising in Havering and across the greater London area, we call upon the HSE to resume physical spot-checks at premises across the borough as soon as possible.
“The HSE, like the local authority, is very much on the frontline in the fight against the spread of this virus and therefore has a duty to commit its resources in the most effective way possible – which is physically on the ground.”
However, his fellow cabinet member Viddy Persaud, responsible for public protection and safety, said: “Face to face visits are always preferable, but we are aware that over the phone inspections are a valid part of the HSE’s inspection process.”
A HSE spokesperson said the telephone calls were made by “specially trained operators, who follow a set of questions compiled by HSE experts on Covid compliance.”
The body said it would make sure standards were being met by “visiting a number of the businesses who have told us they have all the right measures in place. This ensures what we are being told is happening in practice.”
It added: “Where businesses fail to comply, this could lead to prosecution.”