The infection control guidelines are the Health and Safety at Work Act (HASAWA) 1974, the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002, and the Reporting Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 2013.
Despite this, there isn’t really one specific infection control law in the UK. However, these three major set of regulations all touch on the issue. They also cover diseases with a small geographic coverage, as well as major risks to public health.
In addition, there are some organisation-specific policies that relate to controlling infection, including the standard infection control precautions as published by the NHS, and the NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) quality standards covering infection prevention and control. Although these are not laws, they provide detailed practices in dealing with infections like MRSA. Furthermore, they set standards in a similar way to the laws.
All of these rules and regulations aim to create effective policies that reduce the risk of infection at work.
Infection Control Guidelines
HASAWA places a general rule on employers to “ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees at work”. This of course includes infectious diseases which cause serious harm to health.
A major part of the act is to perform a risk assessment. This should examine and identify risks and hazards in your place of work and suggest controls to combat them. Infection risks in hospitality include:
- Storing food in the fridge or freezer
- Not cooking food to the current temperature
- Cross-contaminating food with cleaning products found on surfaces
- Poor personal hygiene
Your employer should draft an organisation-wide hygiene and infection control policy and meet the relevant quality standards. However, if you don’t, you are putting employee and public health at risk.
A ‘substance hazardous to health’ is quite a broad category, as such it covers biological agents like germs, as well as germs that cause diseases. Other examples include “biohazards and infectious pathogens that spread disease, and chemicals used in cleaning and infection control”.
Examples in the healthcare sector may include clearly infectious materials, or potentially infectious ones. They may cause a wound infection. They include:
- Clinical waste
- Dirty bed linen
- Dirty equipment
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that has already been used
- Certain types of drug
- Very infectious bacteria
This can also apply to scientific laboratories, where you must control the spread of harmful bacteria that could cause infection. Furthermore, it can apply to the hospitality sector, where cleaning agents could contaminate food or drinks.
The regulations are quite broad, meaning infection control has to cover a number of sectors. In addition to healthcare and food preparation, it may include schools, universities, social care and hotels. This is important, because infection control needs to be taken seriously in all of these areas of work.
RIDDOR is designed to make sure that organisations report any case of infectious disease in their employees.
This includes “any disease attributed to an occupational exposure to a biological agent”. However, it does not cover those that have a disease from events outside of work. For example, if someone visiting their sick grandmother in a hospital contracts an infection, you cannot report that through RIDDOR.
It is important to highlight that it is a legal obligation to report an incident like this. This is because RIDDOR’s enforcement agency, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), could come to your workplace and prevent an infection spread. Therefore, It is really important to report an accident, and because then you can update your policies with help from HSE.
For more information, you can refer to an online eLearning course. Ours is approved by RoSPA and CPD and will make sure that your employees control infection in your workplace.