Counting the cost of Covid

In the week that we hear of yet another Covid-19 outbreak at a food manufacturer, cases reported as workplace infections continue to look surprisingly low.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) updated its RIDDOR figures this week, which show the number of workplace Covid-19 cases reported. Between the 10 April 2020 and the 9 January 2021, RIDDOR reports totalled 236 cases of Covid-19 in the food manufacturing sector, and one fatality. In comparison, through analysis of media reports, PIRC has identified more than 2,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases identified across the sector. Whilst, as we always stress, cases identified at work are not necessarily contracted at work, we remain concerned at potential under-reporting.
Indeed, just this week the number of coronavirus cases linked to the 2 Sisters factory in Coupar Angus rose to 57. Just five months ago, the same plant was at the centre of an outbreak of 200 infections.
The HSE ackowledges the problem, stating the RIDDOR ‘suffers from under-reporting. Not all employers report cases as required under the regulations. However, as there is no reliable estimate of the number of occupational Covid-19 cases, it is not possible to quantify the extent of under-reporting’.
It would be helpful then if there was more investor scrutiny of the number of Covid-19 cases in particular sectors. In the absence of accurate information on just how severe the coronavirus is in particular industries, – or individual factories – it is hard for investors to promote good practice. At the same time, where employers are subjecting their workforce to unnecessary risk, this too remains challenging to spot without accurate data. The need for a more comprehensive approach is increasingly clear.
* Don’t forget PIRC is co-hosting a webinar with FAIRR on A Just Transition For Food Production next Thursday 28th January at 3.00pm.

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