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COVID-19 Safety Guidance for Enforcement Agents

New Government Guidance on Taking Control of Goods

On August 21st, the government published its new COVID-19 health and safety guidance for both public and private enforcement agents (bailiffs), their employers, and the creditors using them, especially relating to the use of the Taking Control of Goods process. The new guidance was put together by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) in collaboration with Public Health England (PHE) and applies to both England and Wales.

In this article, we’ve summarised some of the main points of advice from the guidance.

Transmission Prevention

In order to reduce the chance of coronavirus transmission, enforcement agents are encouraged to socially distance, keeping 2 metres away – or 1 metre plus protective precautions – from others wherever possible. Also, agents should not raise their voices unless absolutely necessary, as this can create a higher risk of transmission.

Upon arrival at a property, enforcement agents should take a dynamic risk assessment considering the viability of social distancing and how best to remain COVID-safe. If individuals at the property violate social distance guidelines during the agents’ visit, the agents should leave promptly and write up a report of the incident.

In addition to social distancing, fixed teams of bailiffs should be decided, so that the fewest possible combination of individuals need to come into contact.

Enforcement agents should not work if they – or anyone else in their household – are experiencing the symptoms of COVID-19 or if they have been asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace. If an agent does have symptoms, they should order a test to see if they are infected with the coronavirus.

Residential Properties & Commercial Premises

When visiting residential properties, bailiffs should observe the following safety measures:

  1. Contact households prior to the visit and ask if any resident is displaying symptoms of the coronavirus. If they are, the visit should be cancelled.

  2. When arriving at the residence, bailiffs should ask again at the door if anybody is displaying the symptoms of COVID-19, and explain the need for social distancing during their visit.

  3. Prior to entering the property, bailiffs should discuss in detail with the householder how they might achieve effective social distancing using the space available.

If arriving at commercial premises, the bailiffs should cooperate with any COVID-19 health and safety measures put in place by the business they are visiting.

Vulnerability

When carrying out the process of Taking Control of Goods, enforcement agents should consider the impacts of the coronavirus on each individual and be especially aware of people who are clinically vulnerable.

Agents should follow the guidance concerning vulnerability outlined in the National Standards for Taking Control of Goods. When dealing with vulnerable individuals, they should recommend debt advice organisations and allow an opportunity for them to seek assistance.

Hygiene & Protective Equipment

Enforcement agents must have access to high-quality protective equipment including surgical facemasks that are 3-ply, type IIR, and EN14683 compliant, as well as eye protection and disposable gloves. These items of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should be easily accessible and stored safely. Agents should also carry hand sanitiser with them at all times.

Agents should wash their hands thoroughly before and after each visit, after contact with any member of the public, before putting on PPE and after removing or disposing of it. In terms of facemasks, these should be worn when entering any property or vehicle where possible, especially if social distancing is not viable at the location in question.

Here are some further safety measures which agents should observe:

  1. Covering their mouth and nose whenever sneezing or coughing

  2. Avoiding touching their face with their hands

  3. Avoiding contact with hard surfaces and other objects (if unavoidable, gloves may be used)

  4. Avoiding sharing items with each other

  5. Using contactless payment methods wherever possible

While the above should be seen as general guidelines to follow, risks should always be assessed in a case-by-case fashion.

NHS Test and Trace

If a bailiff tests positive for COVID-19 and is requested to share information about their recent contacts and areas of operation by NHS Test and Trace, they should co-operate fully. However, if the information relates to the context of enforcement, the circumstances of contact should be omitted. Click here for more information on the Test and Trace service.

The bailiffs or their employers should keep a temporary record of staff shift patterns and use this information to assist NHS Test and Trace where appropriate. Records should then be disposed of securely after 21 days.

Employers

Employers should follow all government guidance and check that the recommended safety measures are in place – they should also be particularly considerate of any high-risk employees.

It is important that employers ensure their enforcement agents both know and understand the COVID-19 health and safety guidance.

All necessary safety equipment including PPE, hand sanitiser, and other cleaning equipment), must be provided to agents by their employers completely free of charge.

Risk Assessments

Employers and self-employed enforcement agents must carry out a COVID-19 workplace risk assessment, liaising with unions and workers to consider the safety measures that will be introduced. However, employers with less than five workers do not need the assessment to be put down in writing.

  1. When putting together the workplace risk assessment, the following efforts should be made by employers:

  2. Identifying sensible measures to help mitigate transmission of the coronavirus

  3. Supervising, monitoring, and reviewing the measures throughout the process

  4. Keeping employees informed, then instructing & training them based on the results of the assessment

  5. Publishing the risk assessment results on their website

  6. Encouraging agents to carry a notification of their safety guidelines

Neglecting to carry out a risk assessment could be found to be a breach of health and safety law. Failure to comply may result in serious fines and even imprisonment.

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