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Highland Council reports 'high level of compliance' by businesses over virus guidance

By Alan Hendry

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Highland Council says there has been "a high level of compliance" among businesses in the region over the Scottish Government's coronavirus guidelines – but it has issued a warning that staff will continue to look into any complaints of unsafe work practices.

The local authority is responsible for the "policing" the new Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Regulations and coronavirus restrictions such as physical distancing and enhanced hand hygiene controls in a range of business premises including shops, hotels, offices and leisure industry.

The new law was drawn up in response to the serious and imminent threat to public health posed by the virus and came into force at the end of March.

Officers from the environmental health and trading standards teams have responded to more than 280 Covid-19 enquiries from businesses, employees and the public, and have been providing advice on how they can comply with the coronavirus regulations and meet with Scottish Government guidance.

At the end of May, the Scottish Government published its route map to lifting Scotland out of the crisis. Contained in this document is a plan for a phased approach to changing current restrictions that will enable more businesses to resume operations.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outlining the easing of the coronavirus restrictions at her briefing on May 28.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outlining the easing of the coronavirus restrictions at her briefing on May 28.

The council says that, in readiness to reopen, "all businesses should start to look at their workplace operations and create a plan to implement safe work practices to protect the health, safety and welfare of their staff and the public who may use their services". It acknowledges that in the lifting of restrictions "this may present some new challenges to businesses", but it is important to ensure that all workplaces remain safe.

Environmental health manager Alan Yates said: “We continue to engage with local businesses during this challenging period, offering advice on the regulations and providing guidance on how they can provide safe work environments to control the risks of disease transmission. In the Highlands, we have seen a high level of compliance and willingness by business to meet with Scottish Government guidance.

"Our team of officers continue to respond to enquiries and investigate complaints of unsafe work practices and, where appropriate, will look to use their enforcement powers under the coronavirus or health and safety legislation to ensure compliance to protect public health.

"I would encourage all businesses to familiarise themselves with the Scottish Government's recently published route map and relevant business sector guidance which can be found at www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19 – but I would stress that that the publication of these documents does not alter the current lockdown requirements at this time, in that business premises must remain closed unless they are deemed essential to the Covid-19 response and permitted to operate.

"If any business is unsure of their position or requires advice they can contact our service for further advice on 01349 886603 or email envhealth@highland.gov.uk."

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