Tag Archives: Health and Safety Executive

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.


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

Changing landscape, exchanging ideas

8 Jul

On Wednesaday the British Safety Council held a conference entitled The changing health and safety landscape which heard from a variety of speakers on the reforms currently underway; their likely impact; law updates; and current health and safety challenges in different sectors.

It immediately struck me as an event which was far-reaching and all encompassing; the only shame was that there was so much to say and listen to and not enough time for it all.

The morning was kicked off by British Safety Council chair of trustees Lynda Armstrong, where she spoke of the timely nature of the event and the extent of the breadth and depth of the changes underway. She talked about our upcoming meeting with Professor Löfstedt, where she, new chief executive Alex Botha and Neal Stone will contribute to the review with findings from consultation with our members. Lynda said that we must not lose sight of the benefits that come from good health and safety management while trying to relieve the burden on small businesses, which is where some issues remain to be addressed.

Dan Shears, national HS&E research and policy officer at the GMB union, and Steve Pointer, head of health and safety policy at EEF assessed the impact of the government’s reforms in their own ways. Their views generated some interesting questions from the audience as they discussed the ‘compensation culture’; the government’s Red Tape Challenge; the process of claims and HSE’s efficiency.

Neal was adamant that we shouldn’t just look to HSE for solutions in reaching compliance; that the challenge was for the British Safety Council and the wider health and safety community to be more persuasive, with more publicity and education finding its way to the right people.

Listening to these people talk, one thing was clear: each of these changes, no matter how big or small, will affect someone: that people are important; workers are important and employers need to share in the responsibility for being part of the changes, whether putting forward concerns and ideas or in how they implement them.

Presentations by two lawyers followed. Mark Tyler, partner at Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP, spoke of the “evolving scene” of health and safety claims, fines and punishment and how public concern can affect courts’ decisions. In his jovial way, he got a serious subject across to the audience, yet there was an underlying level of uncertainty as well. It seemed for every example one way there was another to prove the opposite. Lawyers in health and safety must be having an interesting time of it at the moment.

Alex took to the stage for his first speech as chief executive. His overriding message was one that our role should be to “inform, not hinder” in these processes of change. He then introduced Gordon MacDonald, HSE programme director and a big draw for attendees as he talked about the fee for intervention proposal. He was direct, clear and honest and tried to cover the concerns the delegates had. Some accepted the cost recovery proposals while others had worries related to smaller business or union reps. Questions to him spilled over into lunch and he readily accepted the bombardment.

I chaired the afternoon session which was given over to discussions related to current health and safety challenges in participants’ sectors. Speaking from the stage and sharing their issues and practices were Ros Seal from the ODA; Paul Haxell from Bovis Homes; Chris Craggs from McFarlane Telfer; and Zerxes Ginwalla from Searcy’s.

So many interesting points were made and experiences shared here that it was a pity there was little time for more discussion. However, I made a huge list of notes and exploratory questions that I am not going to simply cast aside.

This conference was about discussing changes and their likely impact; but more importantly than that, it was about sharing what people already do to make workplaces safer and healthier. From Ros talking about motivation to Chris noting the impact of positive feeling; form Paul explaining their ‘show don’t tell’ policy to Zerxes revealing the challenges of training a multicultural workforce – they all had messages of helping, bettering, evolving.

And that’s what I have taken away with me from Wednesday: that those delegates, whether they agree with everything said and debated or not, are there to make positive changes in people’s work lives; that throughout changes and ups and downs, they work to make sure that workers go home safe and healthy at the end of the day.

Next steps for health and safety reform

21 Mar

The Work and Pensions Minister, Chris Grayling MP, who has responsbility for health and safety, has called representatives from business, trade unions, health and safety organisations and HSE to a meeting on Monday 21 March at which he will set out the next stage of the government’s proposals for health and safety reform. Although the detail of the proposals are yet to be revealed the Minister in the meeting invitation sent to the British Safety Council and others stated that the reforms herald, “a new start for health and safety regulation for Britain’s businesses.”

Details of the proposals will be posted following the meeting.

Neal Stone responds to the planned 35% reduction in HSE services

9 Mar

The British Safety Council has urged the government to have a public debate about the future of health and safety regulation. 

We have very real concerns about the potential impact of the planned 35% reduction over the course of the next four years on HSE resources and its capability to enforce compliance and investigate potential breaches of health and safety law. 

The evidence is clear that enforcement has a powerful role to play in encouraging compliance with health and safety law. A significant reduction in HSE’s enforcement capability and in reactive and proactive inspections could well have an unintended consequence. There is real potential for these reduction measures to be a contributory factor in the incidence and number of workplace accidents increasing. But we must also be pragmatic and understand that for these cuts to be reversed flies in the face of reality.

Part of that public debate must be about ensuring that HSE utilises its considerable resources efficiently and effectively. It is essential that all key stakeholders including government, the regulator, trade associations, trade unions and health and safety bodies like the British Safety Council actively participate in that debate.

Getting educated at Sandown Park

8 Mar

Safety consultant Malcolm Tullett addresses the audience on day one.

As the Deputy Editor on the British Safety Council’s Safety Management magazine, it is vital that I stay up-to-speed with developments in the world of health and safety and last week I got the chance to do just that by trotting along to the ‘Health and Safety 11 – South’ exhibition at the famous Sandown Park racecourse in Surrey.

The British Safety Council is the educational partner for the Health and Safety series of regional exhibitions – which take place at four locations across the UK every year – and the free seminars we organise provide people with the chance to broaden their knowledge and keep abreast of changes in the field.

On the day I attended, Wednesday 2nd March, there were four presentations running, and keen to hear what the various speakers had to say, I made sure I had a seat right at the front for each one.

The session that appealed to me most was the legal update by health and safety solicitor Mark Tyler. Mark specialises in health and safety legislation and has been involved in many high profile Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecutions, making him ideally placed to explain the latest developments in the law, its implementation and surrounding policy. And his presentation didn’t disappoint: in crisp fashion, Mark took us through the most important recent and forthcoming legislative and policy developments, including planned changes to the personal injury compensation process; proposed changes to the RIDDOR accident reporting requirements; and Lord Young’s ideas for tackling the so called ‘compensation culture’.

But my interest really peaked when he moved onto the subject of the first corporate manslaughter prosecution, the recent conviction of Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings following the death of a geologist in a trench collapse. Myself and others in the packed room – around 400, by my reckoning – waited with bated breath for dire warnings of the consequences the case holds for corporate Britain, but Mark calmly explained that the prosecution does not really tell us very much about the new corporate manslaughter offence at all. In fact, he said, the prosecution could probably have been brought under the old gross negligence manslaughter law since the company appeared to be under the control of a sole director, which would have allowed for such a charge.

There were, he added soberly, no real lessons to be learned about the way the new offence will be applied to companies and other organisations, other than the fact that the first case has now been taken, and the courts will probably pay close attention to the sentencing guideline stating that fines should “seldom be less than £500,000”, since the judge actually levied a £385,000 penalty.

While this explanation proved a bit of an anti-climax – given the fanfare surrounding the Cotswold case – it was reassuring to hear the facts first hand from a legal expert, and Mark also provided some enlightening news about some other developments. For example, he explained that fines for safety offences, including fire safety breaches, are generally on the rise, and alerted us to the first prosecution under the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Mark’s presentation was rightly met by loud applause, and several people took the opportunity to rush forward to ask him questions afterwards – a pattern that was repeated with all of the other three speakers. One of those taking advantage was David Batten, purchasing & facilities manager for the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), who described the seminars as “excellent”, a sentiment that was echoed by several others throughout the day.

Mark’s seminar was, however, just one of the four organised by the British Safety Council, and we also heard spirited talks on the benefits of involving the workforce in preventing and managing musculoskeletal disorders, how to measure noise and hand-arm vibration and encouraging safe behaviour at work.

All three were excellent, and work psychologist Sarah Cudmore got a great buzz going by asking us to pair up and think of an unsafe behaviour within our workplaces that could be changed by looking at the task and people’s behaviour and attitudes towards it. My partner for the exercise, Gary Woodrow, a safety advisor for a college, concluded that always getting people to wear PPE could sometimes be a problem for him, but applying Sarah’s logic, he felt this could be tackled through spot checks by the college’s senior management, which would demonstrate high level commitment to safety.

I certainly enjoyed the day, and feedback from the previous day’s seminars was also positive, with a drama-based seminar in which the audience got to ask questions of two actors posing as “employees” following a fatal accident proving particularly popular. Iain Bainbridge, health and safety advisor with construction company Faithdean plc, seemed to sum up the mood of those I spoke to on the second day when he said: “It was so informative. I have learned an awful lot and found lots of areas where I can get information from.”

The Health and Safety 11 exhibition series (http://www.healthandsafetyevents.co.uk) will be taking place at three further locations this year: Edinburgh on 7-8 September; Bolton on 5-6 October; and Dublin, Ireland, on 16-17 November. So, if you are based nearby, and if you can find the time, get along; you really will find the free seminars to be of use.

OSHC Register – Neal Stone reports

7 Feb

Good news that over 1,200 people have applied to join the Occupational Safety & Health Consultants Register in the week following the launch.  This is proof that consultants attach great importance to the goal of ensuring that practitioners have the necessary competence, expertise and qualifications and are committed to adhering to the very highest standards of conduct.  These are early days and the proof of the worth of the OSHCR will only become evident following the register going live on 4 April.

Organisations who use the services of health and safety consultants will be faced with a stark choice in the coming weeks and months and that is whether or not to use a registered consultant.  The British Safety Council’s advice to its member organisations in the UK will be simple – make sure that the consultant you use has the necessary competence, expertise and qualifications to help you manage health and safety effectively.  The OSCHR should assist you in meeting that goal. Weigh up too the possible consequences of going down the non-register route.

Neal Stone, director of policy and research at the British safety Council

For more info: http://www.oshcr.org/