PPE should be a right for casual workers

17 September 2021

The British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) has offered its strong support to a recommendation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that would see workers in the gig economy gaining the same protection as employed workers.

The proposal would give a direct right to personal protective equipment (PPE) for casual workers and ensure that they could not be treated less favourably if they tried to protect themselves from dangerous health exposures at work.

“This follows the successful judicial review of the Government by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWUGB), the body that represents many of the cleaners, delivery drivers and casual staff, without whom the fight against coronavirus would not have been as effective,” the BOHS notes.

The High Court found that the UK Government had failed to put in place direct protections for so-called “limb (b) workers”, who are not self-employed or in a contract of employment.

Although a failure to provide PPE to limb (b) workers may give rise to a breach of s.3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act, etc 1974, which is a criminal offence, the Society believes that it is unlikely that a worker in the gig economy would know how to take action.

BOHS CEO, Professor Kevin Bampton, said: “In the cut-throat world of the gig economy, this is an important issue. The loss of future opportunity to work because of an individual’s decision to protect their health is a real issue for many casual workers upon whom we depend”.

Failure to act will, he went on, add to the billions of pounds of avoidable health and social care costs that are caused by insufficient workplace health protection.