UNANNOUNCED spotchecks will be carried out at businesses across the town in a fresh crackdown on Covid rule-breakers.

Swindon Borough Council has teamed up with the Health and Safety Executive and says it will be in touch with 6,000 companies big and small – including supermarkets, shops, hairdressers, beauty salons, warehouses, and distribution sites.

Officers will start the process by offering advice and guidance to businesses to help them manage the risk of coronavirus transmission in the workplace and ensure appropriate adjustments are in place to protect staff customers and visitors. 

Borough council director of public health Steve Maddern said: “Local business are urged to comply and action any advice immediately to prevent any spread of disease across Swindon.

“The main concern for us that we’re seeing is very much around our supermarkets and small retail outlets.

“We are still seeing these continual reports around supermarkets, and we will investigate those appropriately. The feedback we’ll get from the HSE will allow us to look at where are the areas that need more attention and how we can deal with those.”

He added: “It’s a really positive project for us to get involve with and build upon the work we’ve already been doing with businesses across the pandemic.

“We look forward to seeing the results of that and hopefully that we see a high compliance across those businesses.”

This new initiative will start next week. Members of the public are encouraged to share their concerns with the council.

Mr Maddern said: “If members of the public have concerns about the businesses, we will investigate and action appropriately. It’s not just about taking information from professional, if there’s local intelligence out there, then feed in to the council and we would address that.”

Checks will happen across three stages to ensure businesses are Covid-secure.

The HSE will first make contact with a business to understand what measures it has in place to manage risks during the pandemic.

If there are any concerns, the business will be visited by health and safety practitioners who will be able to offer practical advice and guidance.

If a firm is still found to be non-compliant after they have been visited by practitioners, they will enter the final stage and will be passed back to the council for enforcement action.

The council has promised to take immediate action if businesses are not managing the risk of infection adequately.

This can range from the provision of specific advice, issuing enforcement notices, stopping certain work practices until they are made safe and, where business fail to comply, this could lead to prosecution. 

Cabinet member for housing and public safety councillor Cathy Martyn said: “Safety is our number one priority. Our enforcement team will be working with HSE to talk to local businesses and inspect sites in and around Swindon to understand how businesses are managing risks during the pandemic.

“Being Covid-secure needs to be the priority for all businesses in Swindon.

“It is a legal duty for businesses to protect their staff and customers from harm and to make the appropriate adjustments to prevent Covid-19 transmission in the workplace.

“I encourage businesses to work with their employees when implementing any new changes, to help increase confidence in the measures that are being put in place.”

The council has dealt with 33 ‘situations’ this week, said Mr Maddern at yesterday’s press briefing, with 11 of them fitting the outbreak criteria of two or more cases.

Mr Maddern said: “These are still quite evenly spread across school settings, businesses and health and social care but there are none that I think are of significant noting at this time.

“They are all being relatively well managed.”