Public Health Team Drive Covid Safety in Mid Devon
Mid Devon’s public health and regulatory team has been working tirelessly over the past year to ensure the district remains as safe as it can be during the pandemic.
While the team’s already extensive remit including licensing, food standards, health and safety and environmental protection and private housing must continue the small team has also taken on responsibility for ensuring local firms are Covid secure. This has involved educating businesses with the latest rules, carrying out spot checks, issuing new licences as businesses adapt, as well as carrying out enforcement where necessary.
So far more than 300 checks have been carried out at premises across the district, with thankfully the vast majority keen to ensure they are safe and compliant.
In recent weeks the Council’s new Covid-19 Compliance Officer, Tom West, has been carrying out spot checks at supermarkets and convenience stores – checking the firms are doing all they can to ensure adequate risk assessments are in place, social distancing was being adhered to and firms were only operating according to lockdown rules.
His role ensures all councils in the county are working closely together and the district has capacity to carry out its new regulatory role.
Tom said: “ My job is to ensure businesses within the district are Covid compliant, so if they are allowed to be open we make sure that all aspects of the legislation and guidance are being adhered to and that every effort has been made to keep everybody safe and help reduce the rate of transmission. It’s very busy at the moment as I’m sure you can imagine but we have a great team working together to ensure safety across the district.”
Despite the national lockdown Mid Devon has seen a few businesses flout the rules, including hairdressers who continued to work, car washes operating and non-take away food retail continuing.
The Council has been proactively working with the local police teams to target the rule breakers and as a result has issued a number of prohibition notices.
Simon Newcombe, Corporate Manager for Public Health, Regulation and Housing, said: “Mid Devon businesses have, overwhelmingly, recognised the importance of the rules and want to adhere to them, despite the obvious economic impact they are faced with. We are really conscious that traders across the district are struggling and it’s not our intention to make matters worse, but if education and discussion fails we do have the option of fines and legal action. This type of action has thankfully been minimal and it’s great to see how local firms have adapted to ensure they are safe to trade where they can.”
As well working with the police MDDC is part of a joint project with the Health and Safety Executive, targeting workplaces that may be at higher risk of Covid outbreaks. This initiative results in up to 80 businesses being approached by the HSE each month to discuss their Covid compliance and refer those of concern to the Council for further follow up.
Experience to date shows around a third of those referred to the Council need a detailed follow-up call while around 10% require a site inspection, where we are able to determine if they are falling short of the necessary requirements.
Cllr Dennis Knowles, Portfolio holder for Community Well Being said: “I want to thank our public health team which has adapted so quickly in the face of an ever changing set of rules and procedures. I also want to thank all the businesses in Mid Devon who are facing such a challenging time, yet despite these challenges have taken the steps needed to ensure they are safe. Lastly I want to reassure the public that your Council is doing all it can to support business while also taking the necessary measures to ensure our residents and traders are as safe as they can be.”