Concerns have been raised recently in the press about difficulties healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, are facing in accessing personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary for them to help COVID-19 patients, safely. The focus of these reports has been on problems in the supply chain and the NHS getting the right equipment to the correct destinations quickly enough.  

However, an issue which has not been emphasised in these reports is the fact that all employers have a legal duty under health and safety legislation to ensure, as far are they are reasonably able, the health, safety and welfare of those working for them.  In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, this means taking reasonable steps to minimise the risk of someone catching the virus.  

For pharmacy owners these steps will include carrying out staff training on how to use PPE properly, for other employers, it will include carrying out risk assessments and looking at ways to reduce the risk of the virus spreading amongst employees.   Failure to comply with this legal duty is a criminal offence and, although the Health and Safety Executive has said that it will take the current context into account when looking at enforcement, it has also said that the law still applies, and that protecting employees and other is paramount.  For this reason, employers should make sure they meet their legal obligations.