NCEC’s update on coronavirus (COVID-19)

NCEC’s update on coronavirus (COVID-19)
17 April 2020

On 16 April, the UK Government announced that the lockdown due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) will be extended by at least a further 3 weeks. As a result, we wanted to provide an update on how we at the National Chemical Emergency Centre, which is part of Ricardo, are keeping your emergency response provision and our other services functioning at the normal level of excellence, while ensuring the wellbeing of our staff. 

  • Our work with UK and international emergency service continues. We have had many requests for support from fire and rescue service (FRS) crews that are dealing with incidents related to COVID-19. In response to this, our hazmat and training specialists have prepared a guidance document that highlights the risks and provides best practice advice on how to continue to do the critical public safety role they do every day.
  • Our emergency responder (ER) support remains available to your organisation and the emergency services:
    •  We are still providing industry leading advice around the clock, enabling customers to continue their global trade and movement of chemical materials, which is essential for many products and services.
    • Our coronavirus contingency plans have been rolled out and are working successfully. Our ERs are supported by colleagues who are also available 24/7, and by our enhanced IT resources and robust systems. This enables us to continue to provide the support that is required by the European Chemical Industry Council’s (CEFIC) guidelines for level 1 chemical emergency response.
    • Our ERs are maintaining their frontline response from our Oxfordshire office where they have a dedicated floor space with their own facilities or from their own homes if necessary (e.g. if they are self-isolating).
    • We have implemented plans that ensure Government-recommended social distancing is practised in our office. Alongside homeworking, this minimises the risk of the virus spreading between the ERs.
  • Our regulatory consultancy team members are working from home to help our customers maintain compliance with (and understand) global regulations as effectively as always. For example, while the UK has been locked down, we have increased our rate of poison centre notifications, and continued with safety datasheet (SDS) authoring and dossier support for the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation. Continuing with these time critical compliance activities is an ongoing necessity for many organisations.
  • Our training team, while unable to complete face-to-face training, has rolled out a number of online training modules. This enables organisations to keep on top of their obligations to maintain staff training while travel is restricted (particularly pertinent for the FRS and other first response organisations). Please speak to us if you would like anything created for your organisation. Our current modules cover topics on batteries, explosives, waste fires, illegal drugs labs and dealing with cylinders in a fire.
  • The rest of our team continues to work remotely and securely, so your normal contacts will be available to you as required. Please note, some of the team have adopted very flexible working patterns to support childcare, etc. In these cases, out of offices replies will provide information about revised working hours and provide alternative contacts if appropriate.

In addition, our colleagues across Ricardo are directly supporting organisations and communities affected by COVID-19.

  • Ricardo’s UK manufacturing arm has announced it will be manufacturing protective face shields, which will be donated to and used by frontline NHS healthcare staff and key workers in the care home sector. More information can be found here.
  • With the number of staff now working at home, we have effectively opened 2,900 new offices in the UK with almost no customer delivery impact – a testament to our own business continuity plans and flexible working policy.

Of course, we will continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on our emergency response, regulatory and crisis services. In line with our business continuity plan, we will implement additional measures or advise you of further actions if updated guidance is published by the Government or the World Health Organization.

Best wishes,
NCEC team