The HSE is visiting haulage premises in the run-up to Christmas to ensure they are Covid-secure, amid a surge in demand for online shopping.

It said that large numbers of agency and temporary workers were being recruited to fulfil orders and steps needed to be taken to make sure the risk from contracting the respiratory disease was minimised.

HSE inspectors and local authority officers will visit warehouses and distribution centres across the country to make sure workplaces are following the relevant guidance.

The HSE said businesses need to have in place workplace controls such as social distancing and cleaning arrangements to manage the risk and protect workers and others from coronavirus.

Inspectors will also be making sure that businesses have suitable toilet and handwashing facilities for all workers, including visiting drivers.

Harvey Wild, HSE head of the transport and public services unit, said: “The logistics and distribution industry overall has seen a significant increase in business activity over the past few months and, with shops and retail centres closed, there will be a surge in online shopping in the run up to the festive period.

“It’s important that all workers and also customers feel confident that measures are being taken to protect them from Covid-19.

“Employers have a legal duty to protect workers and others from harm and this includes taking reasonable steps to control the risk and protect people from coronavirus.”

Wild added: “We encourage businesses to consult with their workers on the changes they put in place to become Covid-secure.

“This is to provide reassurance for workers and to also increase confidence in customers and the local community.”

The HSE said that where employers are not managing the risk then the action it can take ranged from issuing specific advice to prosecution.