Archive | Policy RSS feed for this section

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.

The Scottish Perspective

22 Sep

 

Matthew Holder, head of campaigns and engagement at the British Safety Council visited Portcullis House last week to meet shadow secretary of state Ann McKechin (Labour, Glasgow North). Ann had made a valuable contribution to the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee’s  enquiry into health and safety Scotland and the British Safety Council was keen to discuss how we could work together on issues.

Having a background as a solicitor, Ann was very knowledgeable about the Scottish legal system when it came to non-compliance and imposing fines for breaches of health and safety law. In sum, she had a concern that the Scottish courts weren’t really set up to impose sufficient fines and act as enough of a deterrent to those who want to avoid making the investment to follow the law. This was in interesting contrast to the high level of debate around health and safety in Scotland, with few of the ‘silly’ myth stories that feature in the English press. Ann felt this was because there was a general recognition by the public that H&S is serious and worthy of public debate and consideration.

She was very interested in the British Safety Council’s schools programme. She explained that her constituency of Glasgow North did have social problems, with schools that do need help. She offered to help in any way that she could to help the British Safety Council engage schools and  provide free training for school children in the entry level qualification. She was also very interested in our Globe and Sword of Honour Awards that recognise excellence in managing health, safety and environmental pressures. She wanted to stay in touch and be part of our efforts to engage parliamentarians in order to affect the broader changes we want to make.

Compensation culture

5 Sep

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) published its views on compensation culture on 2nd September 2011. The British Safety Council is pleased to offer its support to ensure that those who suffer damage to their health or well-being as a result of a workplace injury or work-related ill health should be compensated for their loss.

The ABI’s publication ‘Improving the system for all’ (Sept 2011) follows Lord Justice Jackson’s recommendations to reform civil litigation funding and costs in England and Wales and which is being picked up in the Government’s current Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill.

The British Safety Council supports the Bill’s attempt to reverse how lawyers are paid; the new law will mean the mark-up for a winning claimant’s fees will be paid from claimant’s damages, not the defendant as it is currently.  We have to reverse the mechanics of a system which is having not only financial, but cultural implications, in terms of people rushing to the courts, putting in claims unnecessarily.

Instead we want to see a fast track procedure for settling low value personal injury claims arising from workplace injuries and work-related ill health occurrences.  We remain adamant that claims handlers, generally, are a contributing factor in pushing up costs and do little to improve injured workers’ access to justice.    

http://www.justice.gov.uk/consultations/jackson-review.htm

http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/bills-and-acts/bills/legal-aid-and-sentencing-bill.htm

www.abi.org.uk

 

HSE Board: Decisions on RIDDOR etc

17 Aug

http://www.hse.gov.uk/aboutus/meetings/hseboard/2011index.htm

A substantial discussion with some significant decisions. At the top of the list, the HSE Board agreed to change the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases, Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR), following a consultation earlier in the year. Under the current system, employers have to report to HSE if a worker is off work for more than 3 days due to a work-related accident/ill health. The change will make this over 7 days. It will also move the obligation to report to 15 days from the date of the accident (from 11 currently).

The Board discussion highlighted differences of opinion. Although response to the consultation (776 responses, including by the British Safety Council) was 2:1 in favour of the change, some thought that the change will have little impact. The duty to record any 3 day accident under RIDDOR remains, and some thought that little was gained by moving reporting to 7 days – the burden is slight, and useful information on accidents causing up to 7 days absence will be lost, diminishing the quality of stats on health and safety. In contrast, others highlighted that this is the view of the majority who were consulted and many SME’s don’t have a dedicated health and safety officer – the change will be significant for them. It was also pointed out that there was strong support for the change by health and safety professionals and safety reps.

In the end the Board’s decision was to support the change to RIDDOR (leading to change in the law in April 2012). However there will be a clear message to employers that recording is vital (and remains for over 3 day), and that HSE will be watching closely for any negative impact and review the decision in 2 years.  

Other highlights included a discussion on the latest fatality statistics for 2010/2011 – 171 fatalities (provisional), against 147 from 2009/2010. Although graphs show the trend is downward, some members pointed out that when adjusted for numbers of people in work at the time of recession, the statistics have flat-lined. Re-emphasis is needed to drive further improvements (though there remains a budget freeze on HSE campaigns). These numbers need to be put in the context of far greater deaths caused by occupational disease (exposure to dust, asbestos etc), and the Board will consider a further paper on this in November. Plus, the sectors in the spot-light – agriculture, waste/recycling, construction and manufacturing – confirms its strategic priorities.

Other agreements: a high level summit for leaders in waste and recycling by the end of the year to drive improvements in a challenging environment, marked by high levels of migrant and agency workers. Construction is making progress, but more needs to be done on occupational health issues – the good work of the ODA needs to be publicised and spread; and HSE will report to the Board on its review of Construction Design and Management (CDM) Regulations.

British Safety Council submits further evidence to the Löfstedt review of health and safety legislation

2 Aug

Following the meeting in early July between Professor Ragnar Löfstedt and Lynda Armstrong our chair of trustees and Alex Botha our chief executive the British Safety Council took the opportunity to submit further evidence in response to issues discussed at that meeting.  Alex Botha wrote to the DWP review team providing further evidence on issues that go to the heart of health and safety legislation and regulation.  In his letter he set out that our recent survey of our members had revealed that six out of ten of our member organisations considered our present system of health and safety regulation “about right” while noting too that a third of our members, however, considered the system “too heavy”.

 Our chief executive set out our views on the role and contribution of external independent third party audit and the value and benefits it can bring.  We also highlighted those sectors where trade associations share information concerning health and safety management and performance data.  The business case for good health and safety also came up in the meeting between Professor Löfstedt and the British Safety Council.  We were able to identify in our further evidence the wealth of research undertaken both in Great Britain and the EU setting out the evidence of the business benefits of good health and safety and on the cost of workplace injuries and ill health occurrences.

Our contribution to supporting the entry level qualification in health and safety, made possible by the support of our members, and its importance in educating young people in risk awareness in preparation for going to work was also spelt out. As with our earlier evidence concerning the mass and complexity of two hundred sets of regulations we provided further evidence concerning the complexity surrounding the 55 sets of approved codes of practice currently in place. We recommended that work should be undertaken to explore the feasibility of rationalising codes of practice.

 The closing date for the submission of evidence has now passed.  We, like our members, await the outcome of the deliberations of independent review team with great interest.  The British Safety Council evidence will be available on our website towards the end of August.

Talk to us directly…

1 Aug

It’s good to chat, so as part of our commitment to professionals and interested bodies in the health and safety community we will be holding a series of Twitter chats.

Key personnel from the British Safety Council will be on hand to answer any questions that you may have or just to share opinions and best practice. The first two Twitter chats are scheduled as follows:

Fee for intervention
15 August 2011
1-2pm
Use #fee4intervention to join in

 Young workers
30 August 2011
1-2pm
Use #youngworkers to join in

We recommend you use www.tweetchat.com to follow the conversation by just putting in the relevant hashtag and linking up to your Twitter account.

If you have any other topics that you want to talk about, please comment below… happy tweeting.

Follow us at www.twitter.com/britsafe