We’ve moved!

7 Mar

Just to let you all know the British Safety Council’s blog has now moved. Visit www.britsafe.org/blog to get your lastest news, reflections and opinion on the most pressing health, safety and environmental issues of today.

New Years Honours for construction leaders John Armitt and Howard Shiplee

1 Jan

The British Safety Council is pleased to add its congratulations to those of many others to John Armitt, Chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and Howard Shiplee the former Director of Health and Safety of the ODA on their New Year honours.

The award of a knighthood to John Armitt and CBE to Howard Shiplee are richly deserved not only for their significant contribution to ensuring an exemplary health, safety and environment record in the construction of the many London 2012  Olympic construction projects but for their achievements in the construction and rail sectors too in John’s case going back many years.

The trustees and staff of the British Safety Council send John, Howard and our member organisations who have helped to safely deliver the London 2012 construction projects our congratulations and best wishes for 2012.

The Power of the Spoken Word

27 Oct

As a writer, you can sometimes forget the power of speech.

This was brought to my attention on Tuesday. Matthew Holder, head of campaigns and engagement, and I presented to a group of apprentices at Kier Building Maintenance in London as part of the European Health and Safety Week.

We were joined by young workers aged 17-26 who were working in gas, electricity, engineering and plumbing. All boys, some had just finished their apprentices, while others were mere weeks into them.

Our presentation focused on engaging the young workers on workplace health and safety. To do this, we gave them examples of how they take responsibility for their safety in their everyday lives. They already look after themselves and their friends on the football pitch, at a nightclub, on holiday. It gave us a good base to talk about attitude and behaviour in the workplace and how it really does have a positive impact on safety.

“We wanted to talk to the apprentices on their level, and hear their ideas of what makes good health and safety at work happen. They shared their ideas and knowledge with us, which was good for us to hear firsthand and great for Kier to know how their training is progressing,” said Matthew after the event.

We also talked about our young worker campaign, Speak Up, Stay Safe, and how that message is at the heart of good health and safety. By speaking to their supervisors, their friends, their family, their mentors, young people can make that first important step to staying safe at work. And we assured them the law was on their side.

This was backed up by the second presentation of the morning. John Callaghan, a Kier health and safety adviser, echoed our message: “If you feel there is something wrong, there usually is – so say something.”

Hearing Matthew and I talk, ask and answer questions on the issues did get them thinking. But watching and listening to the video of Barbara Burke, mother of Steven Burke, who tragically died when he fell from a scaffold at work when he was just 17, clearly got them to consider the terrible consequences of poorly managed workplace health and safety. No one wants those same words to come out of their mother’s mouth. As a reality check and an added kick to the importance of what we were saying, it hit home.

And sometimes that’s it: speaking. We’ve got to take every opportunity we can to talk to young people and give them the chance to be heard. That means everyone: the British Safety Council, employers and colleagues.

Because young people will only use our message – Speak Up, Stay Safe – if there is someone there to listen.

 

Many thanks to Kier Building Maintenance for the invitation. If you would like us to come and talk to your apprentices or young workers, please get in touch.

“I just wanted to express my sincere gratitude for all the hard work you put into making yesterday’s talk a success. I must say I was much impressed with the way everything went. The talk was very relevant and informative and I really liked it because it was very interactive.”

Judith Bilson, health and safety adviser, Kier Islington Ltd.

For more information on Speak Up, Stay Safe please visit www.youtube.com/speakupstaysafe

 

 

 

British Safety Council responds to HSE cost recovery consultation

24 Oct

The British Safety Council has submitted its views to HSE concerning its proposals to extend it power to charge for specific interventions including where action is taken by the regulator to address a material breach of health and safety law. The British Safety Council based its submission in part on the results of survey of its members and on the knowledge of health and safety regulation and management built up over the last fifty years. Generally, members were content with the proposal, recognising that HSE needs to address its costs and that in principle those who operate outside the law should contribute to the costs of regulatory action.

Alex Botha, the British Safety Council chief executive, said: “In our response we made clear that our members, in the main, felt that the compliant and committed had nothing to fear from these proposals – and were certain that this change would drive improvements and a higher level of compliance and consequently a reduction in workplace injuries and work-related ill health occurrences. Under present arrangements the non-compliant appeared to have an unfair business advantage by not making the investment necessary to effectively control the risk of injury and ill health.”

However concerns were raised by a small but significant number of members about how this change will impact on the regulator/duty holder relationship. Some thought it may create the conditions for a less open relationship between the two. The British Safety Council acknowledged HSE’s commitment to measure the impact of the proposed changes on the level of compliance. However it also though it necessary to measure any indirect impact on the incidence and number of workplace injury and work related ill health occurrences.

The new charging regime is planned to come into force in April 2012.

The importance of risk and hazard education: Professor Löfstedt and the British Safety Council contribute to the debate

21 Oct

The Centre for Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Oxford, with the support of the British Safety Council, convened a workshop in October to examine a number of key issues concerning our knowledge and thinking on hazard and risk and how our policy, law makers and educators approach these issues. The panellists included Professor Ragnar Löfstedt of Kings College, Mark Tyler the leading health and safety lawyer and partner at Shook Hardy & Bacon, Lynda Armstrong, chair of the trustees of the British Safety Council and David Bench, HSE director with responsibility for science and chemical regulation.

Professor Löfstedt’s presentation focused on a paper he had published earlier this year, Risk versus Hazard – How to Regulate in the 21st Century, in which he explored the history of the risk versus hazard debate, focusing in particular on the regulatory approaches adopted by different EU member states in relation to two hazardous substances. Professor Löfstedt argued that there was no clear consensus across EU countries as to when risk or hazard considerations should be the basis of regulatory decision making.

In the recommendations set out in the paper Professor Löfstedt argues: “If European regulators are to be successful in increasingly basing health and environmental regulations on risk assessments then there is a need for the public and stakeholders to actually understand what risk assessment is, something that is clearly not the case at the present time. One way around this would be to push for the introduction of risk assessment as part of the science curriculum, in the final years at school as well as encouraging European universities to teach risk assessment as part of the undergraduate and graduate curriculums …”

Lynda Armstrong, in her panel contribution, agreed with the importance of risk education: “We believe it is time for a sea change in our approach to competence building around risk with a focus on instilling the necessary knowledge and behaviours in people at an early age. The British Safety Council will continue its work of helping young people develop an understanding of health and safety risks and appreciate the behaviours they should adopt in readiness for when they go to work. The benefits are twofold: firstly a better understanding of working safely will discourage inappropriate risk aversion; and second, these young people, the future workforce, will be our champions and will be key to ensuring we build our knowledge and use it wisely concerning hazard and risk.” Lynda also made clear where the British Safety Council stood concerning the effectiveness of our current regulatory framework: “We subscribe strongly to the view that our legislative approach to health and safety, carefully balancing the regulation of hazards and risks, is broadly the correct one and working effectively.”

Professor Löfstedt also gave an indication that the report of the independent panel he is leading on the review of our health and safety regulatory framework is likely to be published at the end of November.

Health & Safety North – a review

10 Oct

Besides the educational seminars, the event showcases an exhibition of new & innovative safety products & services.

The Health & Safety North event proved a success with a healthy flow of visitors for both the exhibition and seminars. Focussing on the seminars, the presentation by Neal Stone, British Safety Council director of policy and research, on the first day looked at the impact of the recent and planned Government reforms of the health and safety regulatory framework. He explored the significant changes taking place in sourcing expert advice and guidance and the likely impact of reduced resources for regulation and enforcement. He said, “The pace of change over the year impacting on health and safety management in the UK has been immense. Not only have we seen significant proposals to change and/or review our health and safety laws, for example, Lord Young’s review and reforms announced by the government earlier this year including Professor Lofstedt’s review of health and safety law, we are starting to see the impact of other non legislative changes. Clearly both HSE and local authorities will have considerably less resources to carry out their responsibilities following the government deficit reduction plans – their priorities will have to change and as we have seen they will have to examine ways in which cost recovery could be increased including, for example, HSE charging fees for its intervention activity to address material breaches of health and safety law by duty holders.

“HSE enforcement priorities have changed with a shift of emphasis towards high and medium hazard sector organisations with a higher level of risk. The occupational health and safety consultants register (OSHCR) a voluntary register developed by HSE in conjunction with health and safety bodies as the British Safety Council is now up and running. It’s too early to say whether it will meet its objective of assisting small organisations to identify expert, competent and suitably qualified health and safety consultants to advice and assist them with their management of risk. We do know that over 2,600 consultants have successfully registered to date.”

He added, “The British Safety Council has consulted its members on all major reforms of the past year – Lord Young’s review, RIDDOR reform, Löfstedt review and proposals by HSE to extend its powers to recovers costs. For the British Safety Council the acid test for the cumulative effect of all of these changes is what impact will they have on our health and safety performance. What will the trends in numbers and incidence of workplace fatal and major injuries and work-related ill health occurrences look like over next five years. Our surveys of our members reveal that the vast majority consider that our framework of health and safety law is working effectively. However there are concerns particular among our small organisation members that the law is incredibly complex to understand making compliance a challenge. The British Safety Council strongly believes that ensuring guidance is accessible, understandable and to the point vital in assisting duty holders to comply with the law.”

On day two, Kevin Bridges, Pinsent Masons LLP partner associate, shared lessons that can be learnt from the first corporate manslaughter prosecution. Bridges represented Cotswold Geotech and its managing director in the prosecution. He outlined the background to the case; the respective arguments advanced by the prosecution and the defence. He said, “The lesson to be learnt by employers is that it has never been more important to ensure that safety management systems are robust and senior managers understand their own health and safety obligations.” He went on to explain the significance of having a clearly defined Incident Response Protocol, incorporating Legal Privilege over accident investigation reports and other internally produced documents.

An inspiring part of the programme was a case study type presentation from Naveed Qamar, Group Safety Director of FirstGroup. He talked about the challenges of managing a workforce of 130,000 people and 2.5 billion passengers, where the challenge is to promote a proactive mindset as opposed to waiting for events to dictate. He gave an insight into how to provide safety leadership internally and externally and the results that can be achieved. He also highlighted a successful initiative on injury prevention by providing each employee a handbook that they carried with them to monitor both negative and positive health and safety actions.

If you missed the Northern event, there is Health & Safety Ireland scheduled for next month.

Member engagement gathers pace

3 Oct

The past week the British Safety Council has been learning more on how its members are addressing topical health and safety focuses – occupational health and the green agenda.

Global law firm Linklaters invited the British Safety Council for a tour of its London offices to understand first-hand what they are doing with their staff in relation to managing occupational health and safety issues. The focus on work stress is important given the firm has recognised ill health presents far greater risks than accidents to its employees therefore aligning its health and safety policy to reflect this.

With a workforce of about 1,800 in London, the health and safety team led by Peter Kinselley are focussed on engaging its large workforce with a variety of awareness-raising initiatives, training and support. The British Safety Council was given an overview of the team’s many initiatives covering mental health talks, confidential support services and well being road shows. A tour of the firm’s extensive catering facilities serving healthy meal options using local produce, a well equipped staff fitness centre and detailed waste management system, followed. 

Later in the week, the British Safety Council visited Panasonic UK to learn more about how the business is positioning itself in relation to environmental product engineering. Following the launch of  Panasonic’s ‘Green Plan 2018’ last year, the manufacturing giant has been working towards the business goal to be the number one green innovation company in the electronics industry by their 100th anniversary in 2018 . Together with the company’s health, safety and environmental affairs team, Keith Evans, Panasonic UK managing director, talked through the vision of not just products reflecting this ambitious environmental action plan, but employees. The plan outlines initiatives that all employees should take to become an industry leader in the green indexes the company has set covering areas like reduction of CO2, energy efficiency, resources reuse and recycling, and minimising water consumption. You can read more on Panasonic’s sustainability activities in the next issue of Safety Management magazine.

Both meetings discussed the role of the British Safety Council in supporting members implement their corporate occupational health and sustainability activities. Members expressed interest in outcomes of the charity’s campaigning, influencing and lobbying work, an area both members acknowledged is fundamental in ensuring their health and safety objectives aligns with. The charity took on board the feedback and will work on further engagement with members on important legislative development in the coming months.

First Aid: first to work

3 Oct

I was a clumsy kid. My parents despaired as cherryade went scooting up newly painted walls; as by trying to help out I ended up breaking the lawn mower; how I came back from every holiday with scars as souvenirs.

Last night it dawned on me that some clumsy people should never live alone.

Just before dinner, I reached into a drawer of bits and bobs. One of the bobs was an attachment for the food processor. With blades. It sliced into my finger.

I wouldn’t make a good nurse. Imagine clumsy ‘ole me trying to bandage someone, or stick needles into an arm: it would cause more harm than good.

Blood started dripping all over the other bits and bobs; then onto the floor, my jeans and the food I had.

I tried to look at the cut. I knew nothing about what I should do, so I ran it under some water and watched the sink turn red. Then I wrapped the biggest plaster I could find around it, taped it up some more when the blood started to show and ate my dinner with one hand. I ignored the throbbing.

Why was I content to do nothing much about it?

I’m not good with blood and bodies cut open. I can’t sit through an episode of ER or Casualty simply because there are too many bones sticking at the wrong angles and insides of people on display.

I also knew I was coming to work today.

The British Safety Council has a team of trained first aiders in its offices. They have been trained by the Red Cross and they do their refresher course every three years to keep up-to-date.

Cleaning and healing

Paris, one of our first aiders, unwrapped the terrible sticky tape I had put round my finger, soaked with blood.

 “Did you clean it?” she asked. I replied I hadn’t.

“Why not?” I told her that I had known I was coming to work today and we have first aiders who would deal with it.

She smiled. She cleaned it properly and covered it to stop the blood while still allowing air to get to it to heal.

It’s made me think. Let’s keep in mind my injury was not work related.

But I did come to work to get it sorted. This firstly made me aware of the basic skills I obviously lack. It also got me thinking about the reality of the work that our gap year students do in far-flung corners of the globe regarding basic health and safety; teaching children to keep themselves safe and healthy so that clumsy hiccups like mine do not reach dangerous levels.

I also thought about the role and responsibility of employers. Legally, employers must have first aid provision and equipment and facilities for their employees should they be injured or are taken ill at work under the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981. Depending on the workplace, this can be simply having a first aid box available, or, as we do, having trained first aiders to deal with. Points to consider include the hazards, the number of employers and visitors, the working arrangements and the accidents and ill-health record.

It doesn’t account for clumsy people like me.

But that’s OK. I was glad that I could come into work today and have that trained attention.

There are many moments in our working lives where things happen ‘at the office’ and all we can do is think about being at home.

Yesterday, I was at home thinking about being at work. It was a change which has meant my wound will heal nicely.

And my bits and bobs drawer has been reorganised to a safer standard.

Are you a trained first aider? Have you had a first aid experience at work? Do you think all workplaces should have trained employees in first aid? Let us know your thoughts and comments.

British Safety Council’s construction sector interest group up and running

29 Sep

Representatives from construction companies who belong to the British Safety Council came together for the first time at the end of September to share their views on major health and safety issues; help shape our representations to government and the regulator; and identify what more we can all do together to drive improvements through the sharing of best practice.

Alex Botha with co-chairs Phil Coutts and Grant Findlay

The setting up of this group under the direction of Alex Botha, our chief executive, and the ones planned for manufacturing, energy and transport members, are proof of the British Safety Council’s determination to better understand the health, safety and environmental management challenges our members are facing and use the knowledge and expertise they have far more effectively in ensuring workplaces are healthier, safer and more sustainable.

The group, co-chaired by Grant Findlay of Aspire Defence Capital Works and Phil Coutts of Mace Technology, and which will meet twice a year, has a diverse range of construction members from house builders as Bovis Homes to major contractors such as McNicholas, Willmott Dixon and Trant Construction. The discussion at the first meeting covered a range of issues including the role, responsibility, competence and suitability of construction supervisors; HSE’s plans for the extension of cost recovery through ‘fee for intervention; and the Löfstedt review of health and safety legislation.  The work of and output from the construction and other interest groups will be shared on our website and through the pages of Safety Management.

Sector interest groups for manufacturing, energy and transport will follow.

Automatic Fire Alarm Attendance by English Fire Brigades – A Postcode Lottery?

23 Sep

So you’re based in Nuneaton and the automatic fire alarm goes off at your business; you all exit the premises and assemble in the appropriate place. Coincidentally your sister operation in Norbury experiences the same set of circumstances at the same time.

So all of you in the two locations are stood outside in the cold and are assuming that the big red engines will respond to the automatically transmitted alarm signal and subsequently arrive and put out the fire?

Well your assumption would be wrong in Nuneaton as Warwickshire Fire and Rescue does not respond to automatic fire alarms, but in Norbury, London you’d be correct as London Fire Brigade does!

So there is now a postcode lottery with regard to fire cover for commercial premises in England and any business manager would be well advised to contact their local fire and rescue service to see how they are affected by this roll of the geographical dice. In essence, the English fire brigades are under the cosh with regard to funding and many, such as Warwickshire, are trying to drastically reduce their attendance levels at false alarms as these cost money.

There is no doubt that false alarms constitute a major problem for the fire and rescue fraternity and businesses should make every effort to reduce their incidence; help is available from the FIA on this matter by clicking here.

Warwickshire are not alone in reducing their attendance to automatic fire alarms from commercial premises; other fire and rescue services including Essex, Royal Berkshire and West Midlands have also made major changes to what has been full cover in the past. Of course, within reason, local fire and rescue services can choose how they react to automatic fire alarm signals, however, one would have thought that there would be a concerted effort to make any changes in response reasonably uniform across the country?  Sadly this has not been the case to date although the FIA continues to lobby both the Chief Fire Officers Association and local fire and rescue services to this end.

So if you’re not sure whether your fire and rescue service will attend your premises when then alarm goes off, dial 999 and request their presence, but only after you’ve exited the premises and are waiting outside in the cold!

About our guest blogger
Graham Ellicott is the CEO of the Fire Industry Association.