Archive by Author

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.

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.

British Safety Council welcome Labour frontbencher Andy Slaughter MP

2 Sep

Alex Botha, the chief executive of the British Safety Council, earlier this week welcomed Andy Slaughter, the Labour MP for Hammersmith and frontbench spokesperson on justice, to the organisation’s head office. 

Andy was meeting new faces and renewing acquaintances with an organisation he has known well for the last thirty years. Alex took the opportunity to brief Andy on what the British Safety Council is doing to deliver its vision that no one should be killed or made ill by their work both through its advisory, audit and training services and its funding of basic qualifications in health and safety awareness. Much of the discussion focused on the review of health and safety legislation being led by Professor Ragnar Löfstedt and the reforms to legal aid currently progressing through Parliament on which Andy is leading for Labour in the House of Commons.

Andy reflected on the fifteen months he spent as a journalist at the British Safety Council on graduating from university in the early ‘80s before going on to qualify as a barrister.  This was at a time when the new regulatory framework for health and safety enacted in 1974 was starting to impact particularly in preventing injuries and ill health occurrences.  Andy worked with an impressive team of journalists producing a weekly newspaper and monthly magazine for members – including Charles Leadbeater who went on to work for the Financial Times and a former adviser to Tony Blair and Mark Wheeler who went on to become a senior press officer at HSE.

The British Safety Council’s relationship with Andy Slaughter our local MP is an important one focusing not only on major issues concerning health and safety regulation and access to justice but on other issues too concerning the local community and environment. 


Just three weeks until the best health and safety expo and conference in Scotland – register now for your free place and build your CPD points

18 Aug

Health and Safety ’11 Scotland taking place on 7-8 September at the Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston, Edinburgh, is a must attend health and safety event. More than 50 major providers and suppliers of health and safety products and services will be attending and ready to answer your questions concerning how better to manage the risk of injury and ill health in your organisation.

Increasingly health and safety practitioners, working across a range of professions and occupations, are seeing the health and safety exhibitions as an essential part of building their knowledge, developing their competence and keeping abreast of fast changing health and safety policy and law.

The speaker line up for the eight education seminars taking place over the two days is impressive. Dr Paul Stollard, HSE’s director for Scotland, Laura Cameron, one of the country’s leading health and safety lawyers and partner at McGrigors LLP and Ian Tasker from the Scottish TUC are just three of the speakers.

The British Safety Council is honoured to be partnering the seminar programme once again.  I look forward to seeing you in Edinburgh.

Register now at

Chinese delegation visits British Safety Council HQ

8 Aug

Alex Botha, chief executive of the British Safety Council, welcomed twenty senior officials from the State Administration of Work Safety of China to the organisation’s London headquarters on 4 August.  The officials, drawn from the chemicals, coal mining, metallurgical, nuclear and shipbuilding sectors including in Sichuan and Shandong, met with the British Safety Council executive team as part of their week long study tour of the UK.

The meeting provided the Work Safety Administration officials with the opportunity to hear first hand from Alex Botha and his colleagues about the work of the British Safety Council in helping keep workplaces and workers safe and healthy in the United Kingdom, the Middle East, India and the many other countries in which it operates.  The visiting state delegation were particularly interested in exploring the effectiveness of the health and safety regulatory framework and how the work of the British Safety Council assists in helping ensuring legal compliance.  Both the State Administration of Work Safety officials and the British Safety Council executive team were clear about the importance of maintaining contact, sharing knowledge and meeting again in the near future.

Worker involvement: the elusive piece in the health and safety jigsaw

29 Jul

Nigel Bryson has been a stalwart over the past thirty years in promoting the immense benefits of actively involving workers in preventing workplaces injuries and ill health occurrences. I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with Nigel for the past ten years. The British Safety Council is honoured that Nigel regularly speaks at our events and ones that we partner. It is fair to say that the hundreds who have heard him never fail to be moved by his passion and persuasion.

You never quite know what you are going to get from Nigel in terms of what he will use to highlight the cost of not involving workers and the massive benefits produced when you do. Quite simply Nigel grabs your attention, engages your emotions and presents you with the stark evidence. In his words, “Workers are not the problem: workers are the solution to health and safety problems”.

Nigel has now brought a mass of material together in his new book, “Zero harm: worker involvement. The missing pieces”. Just reading his foreword, “Workers dying to live”, reminded me that for many people the consequences of workplace injury and ill health are not remote but have touched them directly and continue to impact on them and their families. Nigel was deeply affected by his father’s work as a trade union official and the memory of his father having to visit the bereaved families of dead workers. One such instance was a visit to the wife of a worker killed in a quarrying accident. The woman still harboured a faint hope that her husband would come walking through the door. She said to Nigel’s Dad, “You know Mr Bryson there wasn’t even a body to bury.” To obtain a copy of this book or talk to Nigel about his work in promoting worker involvement e-mail him at

“Do the maths” – HSE publishes proposals for recovering its costs from non compliant duty holders

26 Jul

The HSE issued a consultation document on 22 July 2011 containing proposals to place a legal duty “on HSE to recover costs where duty holders are found to be in material breach of health and safety law”.  The British Safety Council will shortly be consulting its own members in Great Britain concerning the proposals through an online survey and face-to-face meetings. The importance of this particular consultation cannot be overestimated.  This impact of this particular regulatory change is not solely about a transfer of the burden of meeting the costs of tackling non-compliance from the taxpayer to the regulator.  It raises questions too about the relationship between the regulator, that is HSE, and duty holders and the policy and practice concerning HSE enforcement. For the present the cost recovery proposals apply only to the work of HSE not to the equivalent work undertaken by local authorities.

The consultative document makes clear that HSE would not have discretion on whether to apply fee for intervention. Rather HSE would be under a duty to recover the costs of its intervention activity where there had been a material breach of health and safety law.

An average hourly rate of £133 would be used for all HSE staff with the costs of specialist support staff added where required. The preferred option in the supporting impact assessment, that is option 6, estimates that the “the benefit to the taxpayer equal to the sum of costs recovered from businesses” would be approximately be a maximum of £46.3 million per year. Doing the maths produces a figure of some 323,000 chargeable hours to generate the revenue necessary to recover costs of £46.3 million. If we make a working assumption that each intervention, where costs are to be recovered, averages out at 10 hours of HSE time we can expect to see some 30,000+ interventions per year. What will be the consequence for HSE of not generating the additional income from cost recovery that will be built into its budget for 2012/13 and beyond?

These are significant sums of money both for the organisations who will have to bear the costs and for HSE who from April 2012 will have to recover these costs in order to carry out its full range of statutory responsibilities.

The HSE consultation document can be accessed at  and the impact assessment can be accessed at

The Löfstedt review of health and safety legislation : British Safety Council members speak up

17 Jun

The British Safety Council commenced a consultation exercise with our members earlier this week on the questions posed by the Löfstedt review of health and safety legislation. Over 200 members have already accessed the questionnaire in which we seek their views on the potential for regulations to be merged or simplified and on their impact and effect. It is clear from early responses that there is considerable support for the contribution that our current regulations and supporting ACOPs have had in improving health and safety and believe that reform is not necessary. Almost half of respondents considered that there were regulations that could be simplified.  Half of respondents consider that the benefit of health and safety regulations outweigh the burden while one in four held the opposite view.

There are still two weeks remaining for members to let us have their views which will form an integral part of our submission of evidence to Professor Löfstedt  – the survey can be accessed at

Shifting the cost of health and safety regulation – consultation looms

15 Jun

The government in its plans for further health and safety reform set out in Good Health and Safety, Good for Everyone made clear that it believed “that it is reasonable that businesses that are found to be in serious breach of health and safety law – rather than the taxpayer – should bear the related costs incurred by the regulator in helping them put things right.”  The government clearly set out the rationale it believed justified this proposal to enable HSE to extend its power to charge to recover costs way beyond ‘permissioning’ regimes as nuclear, offshore and onshore major hazards and approvals of new substances.

Our members will, when the proposals become law, have to pay a ‘fee for intervention’ to cover HSE’s costs for the work it undertakes to address non-compliance up until the point where compliance is achieved. That fee could be considerable. Although we must await the publication by HSE of the consultation document in order to get a real sense of the scale and cost of what is being proposed it is already clear from what has been made public that these changes could impact significantly, for example, on the relationship between the regulator and the duty holder.  ‘Fee for intervention’ is very different from the ‘polluter pays’ principle that underlies charging for the permissioning regimes.

Already concerns have been raised about the wisdom and equity of charging non-compliant duty holders – in effect imposing an administrative sanction for a breach without having to go through the due process of law.  The argument in support of civil administrative penalties for health and safety breaches is bound to raise its head once again. This new development is bound too to raise questions about HSE efficiency and effectiveness in carrying out its enforcement role.  Transparency and proportionality will be key. The projected income that will be generated from ‘fee for intervention’ has no doubt already been factored into HSE’s budget for 2012/13 and forward years. It is essential then that the British Safety Council effectively represents the views of our members on this radical proposal.  This we will be doing shortly.