Coronavirus: Nearly 600 suspected Scotland workplace cases

By Andrew Picken
BBC Scotland News

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Nearly 600 people in Scotland are thought to have caught coronavirus at their place of work, new figures show.

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

Care home workers account for nearly two thirds of the suspected occupational exposures, according to Health and Safety Executive (HSE) data.

But hairdressers, funeral directors, beauty therapists and NHS workers are among those who are also thought to have been exposed to the virus at work.

Gary Smith, secretary of the GMB Scotland union, said there is likely to be significant under-reporting of the suspected workplace coronavirus cases.

He said: "The events of the last six months simply do not give any confidence in these figure.

"In sectors which predominately employ women, such as social care and food manufacturing, we are talking about industries notorious for the under-reporting of workplace incident and injury pre-Covid.

"We now know that many of the workers in these industries have been failed on basic health and safety issues, from the delay in the delivery of proper PPE provision to the ability to access testing for suspected Covid infection."

Mr Smith said such under-reporting should be a "cause for alarm" for efforts to try and understand the impact of coronavirus in the workplace.

Legal duty

Employers have a legal duty to report cases where there is reasonable evidence to suggest an employee diagnosed with coronavirus caught it while at work.

Latest figures show that between 10 April and 8 August there were a total of 594 such reports by employers in Scotland to the HSE and local councils.

A total of 373 of them were workers in residential care, 32 were healthcare staff and a further 146 were classed as working in "personal services" such as hairdressers or funeral directors.

A further 43 people worked in other industries, according to the HSE figures.

Of the eight suspected Covid-19-related workplace deaths reported, four were in residential care.

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image captionThere have been a total of 32 coronavirus reports submitted by employers in Scotland's healthcare sector, including one where the worker died from Covid-19

The HSE has so far made inquiries into five reported deaths in Scotland and concluded that in four of these cases there was insufficient evidence to confirm they were the result of work-related exposure to coronavirus.

A fifth case is still under investigation.

A spokeswoman for the health and safety watchdog said: "We continue to carry out a detailed assessment of deaths that have been reported to us.

"Where those reported meet HSE's incident investigation criteria, they are being processed and an investigation initiated.

"We are in regular dialogue with the Crown Office, Scottish government, regulators and others on reporting and investigation of Covid-19 work related deaths."

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