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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.

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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.

Chris Tiff: Sad farewell

5 Sep

It is with great sadness that the British Safety Council records the death of Chris Tiff, a tireless campaigner for workers health and safety. Chris was a proud member of the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT) and always put construction workers first, never afraid to speak his mind and always determined to ensure their voices were heard. 

One of Chris’s many achievements was the establishment of the George Brumwell Learning Centre based at Canary Wharf. The Learning Centre gives construction workers the opportunity to further their skills in such subjects as information technology and English.

He was always willing to try new things, for example taking up the challenge as one of the first Worker Safety Advisers (WSA) and providing health and safety advice to workers who lacked access to expert independent health and safety advice. Chris worked incredibly hard and used his experience to ensure the WSA pilot’s success.

He will be sorely missed.

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. 

 

No more excuses

24 Aug

So health and safety has been in the news again today, but this time it seems to be for all the right reasons. HSE released its top 10 most bizarre health and safety excuses from this year earlier today, prompting a lot of tweeting from ourselves and our followers. At one stage it was even in the top 10 most popular stories on the BBC’s website.

We at the British Safety Council have long been campaigning for sensible safety, but health and safety has developed a bad reputation over the years. “Someone’s got a paper cut…quick call the health and safety police” is a joke I’ve heard in the past when I’ve mentioned I work for a health and safety organisation. And more recently it has become the excuse for banning the most silly of things. People are no longer to bump in bumper cars? Have you heard anything more bizarre?

Reading HSE’s list of 10, I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself at the ridiculousness of these stories. But on a serious note, it is these stories that are giving health and safety a bad name and detracting from the very serious message we are trying to get across.

Following the release of the list, employment minister Chris Grayling warned that “an epidemic of excuses wrongly citing health and safety is needlessly curtailing people’s personal freedoms”. We wholeheartedly support Chris Grayling’s efforts to highlight the needless application of health and safety laws to ban or restrict day-to-day activities. People should challenge health and safety myths and overzealous practices and take the common sense approach.

Alex Botha, our chief executive, said in a statement today: “We need to think in terms of sensible safety and dispel the harmful myths that have grown up and which trivialise a serious issue through the banning of perfectly reasonable and low risk activities. We should be able to enjoy ourselves at work or at play without being tied up in red tape and unacceptable bureaucracy; and without sweeping away regulations that are there to make our schools and our workplaces as safe as necessary. 

“Our work with members and the wider business community demonstrates that good health and safety really is good business and it’s this positive message the British Safety Council will press to help bust these myths once and for all.”

Read HSE’s list of 10 most bizarre health and safety bans: http://www.hse.gov.uk/news/bizarre-bans/index.htm