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Cardiff council denies lack of coronavirus workplace risk assessments claim

CARDIFF council has denied claims not enough measures are being taken to keep council workers safe from coronavirus.

A council worker in Cardiff, who asked to remain anonymous, has claimed they were “stonewalled” when asking for a risk assessment.

The Welsh Government recently announced employers must strengthen their safety measures in workplaces to reduce the spread of Covid-19, including carrying out specific coronavirus risk assessments.

Responding to the claims, Cardiff council said employees’ safety was taken seriously, and information on how to work safely was shared with all employees. Trade unions representing council workers also denied the claims.

The anonymous council worker alleged that they had not seen a coronavirus risk assessment, despite repeatedly asking management for one.

The same worker also claimed vaccines were used as an incentive for staff to work overtime, and given to supervisors working from home. The council refuted these allegations last week.

The worker said:

“The Welsh Government announced that workplaces are required to update Covid risk assessments in workplaces. This definitely is not happening, even in Cardiff council where I work.

“Quite a few of us are worried about our health. It doesn’t seem like the council is taking it seriously. It makes you a bit fearful. These risk assessments just don’t seem to exist.

“It feels inevitable we’re going to catch Covid at work because not enough is being done.”

In response, a council spokesperson said:

“We implement Welsh Government and Public Health Wales guidance which includes engaging and communicating with our employees.

“As we don’t know which area this employee is referring to we can’t directly answer the claims about their risk assessment not being made available to them — although we do find this allegation surprising. If they have concerns we would ask them to raise them with HR or their union who will look into the matter.

“We take the safety of our employees very seriously and have introduced a wide range of measures to ensure their safety during the pandemic.

“Staff who can’t work from home have clear guidelines to follow on how best to decrease the chance of the infection spreading in the workplace and that guidance requires all service areas to undertake a Covid risk assessment. Information on how to work in a safe setting and in a safe way is shared with all employees.”

An example the anonymous worker gave that caused their concerns was the sharing of vehicles and mixing of teams. They claimed different staff members mix teams frequently and share vehicles often.

They said: “You’re expected to share a work vehicle with someone else, as though Covid doesn’t spread in workplaces.

“There’s no need for two people to be in a vehicle. But I suppose more vehicles would cost them more money.

“Is it more important to have a job or more important to not catch Covid? It’s a difficult balancing act.”

The council said there was “very specific guidance” for staff who work in vehicles, and plans are ready in case of outbreaks.

The spokesperson said:

“There is very specific guidance for staff who work in vehicles and managers are reminded of their duty of care to their employees at all times.

“Covid-19 and the new variant is extremely infectious and staff could catch Covid at any point living their daily life, but we have plans in place to manage outbreaks and to advise staff on how best to protect themselves and their loved ones.

“We don’t know the specifics of where this employee works so we can’t answer this directly, but where PPE is a requirement the council ensures that all officers have the correct equipment to carry out their work as safely as possible, this includes guidance and PPE when sharing vehicles.

“If more than one council officer has to work from a vehicle at the same time as another officer we try to ensure that the same operators always work together, reducing the risk of infection spread among the department if someone was to catch Covid. We also give staff the opportunity to use their own vehicle where possible and offer paid mileage for the expense.”

Two trade unions representing Cardiff council workers also denied the claims of a lack of coronavirus risk assessments.

GMB and Unison representatives at the council issued a joint statement, saying: “GMB and Unison would urge any member who has concerns to raise them with their line manager or union. Health and safety meetings are held every week where members’ concerns are brought forward and addressed.

“Both GMB and Unison are working well with the council’s health and safety teams and there is a very clear focus on keeping all our staff safe. Health and safety is paramount and all risk assessments are available to any staff member.

“We are disappointed to hear that someone still has some concerns and would urge them to contact their trade union immediately to discuss them.”

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