Coronavirus: nearly 600 suspected cases in the workplace in Scotland

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Nearly 600 people in Scotland are believed to have contracted coronavirus in the workplace, new figures show.

The data includes eight people who have died from the virus since April.

Home care workers account for nearly two-thirds of suspected occupational exposures, according to data from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

But hairdressers, funeral directors, estheticians and NHS workers are among those reportedly also exposed to the virus at work.

Gary Smith, GMB Scotland union secretary, said there would likely be significant underreporting of suspected coronavirus cases in the workplace.

He said: “The events of the past six months just don’t give any confidence in these numbers.

“In sectors that primarily employ women, such as social care and food manufacturing, we are talking about industries notorious for the underreporting of pre-Covid workplace incidents and injuries.

“We now know that many workers in these industries have failed on basic health and safety issues, from delay in delivering the proper PPE supply to the ability to access tests for suspected infection at Covid. ”

Mr Smith said such underreporting should be a ’cause for alarm’ for efforts to understand the impact of the coronavirus in the workplace.

Legal obligation

Employers have a legal obligation to report instances where there is reasonable evidence to suggest that an employee diagnosed with coronavirus caught it at work.

The latest figures show that between April 10 and August 8, 594 such reports were sent by employers in Scotland to the HSE and local councils.

A total of 373 of these were settlement workers, 32 were health workers and 146 others were classified as working in “personal services” such as hairdressers or funeral directors.

According to HSE figures, another 43 people worked in other sectors.

Of the eight suspected Covid-19 workplace deaths reported, four were in institutions.

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Legend

There have been a total of 32 coronavirus reports submitted by employers in the healthcare sector in Scotland, including one in which the worker died from Covid-19


The HSE has so far investigated five reported deaths in Scotland and concluded that in four of those cases there was insufficient evidence to confirm that they were the result of occupational exposure to the coronavirus.

A fifth case is still under investigation.

A spokesperson for the health and safety watchdog said: “We continue to do a detailed assessment of the deaths that have been reported to us.

“When those reported meet the criteria for investigating HSE incidents, they are being processed and an investigation is initiated.

“We have a regular dialogue with the Crown Office, the Scottish Government, regulators and others on the reporting and investigation of work-related deaths from Covid-19. “

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