Tag Archives: Health and safety

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.

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 http://www.eventdata.co.uk/Forms/Default.aspx?FormRef=Hea91Visitor

Animated video of health and safety in the workplace

17 Aug

Browsing at videos on YouTube, I found this light-hearted animation to brighten up your day.

It was made by a young person called Nathan as part of his college project.


Pendennis and their health and safety Olympics

12 Aug

At the end of last week I took the rather long journey to the beautiful south coast of Cornwall to pay a visit to a company who were holding an event that was, I think, unprecedented: a day of safety games, or, as I like to think of it, the Health and Safety Olympics.

The company was Pendennis Worldclass Superyachts. Now, some of the yachts they build are absolutely amazing. The night before I arrived they launched the world’s largest luxury sailing catamaran, Hemisphere. And building and refitting yachts carries with it a wide range of hazards.  

Each of the games followed the core topics of the British Safety Council’s level 1 award, which is very broad, so everything from chemicals to PPE; manual handling to workforce consultation. Each of the games was developed by one of the managers or supervisors who had lately taken a level 2 qualification with the consultancy Risk and Safety Plus, who helped coordinate much of the day’s action.

Around 200 members of staff who work for the company took part in the day’s events. The employees worked their way around each of the game. They included an inventive take on snakes and ladders to help understand the legal aspects of health and safety; target practice on the fire extinguisher firing range; darts to aid comprehension of COSHH; even a home-made dummy to practice what to do should the worst happen and someone have a serious accident.

The response from the supervisors and employees was great; no one had a bad word to say about it; the feedback was fantastic. Marga, who works in administration, said to me: “It’s very well set out, well thought of; it’s excellent and fun. I’ve learnt an awful lot.”

Now, I had a great day, probably partly due to the fact that being from Derby – which is about as far away from the sea as you can get in this country– I’ve never been to a working dock before. The scale alone is staggering. But more than this it was fantastic to see a company taking an innovative approach to teaching everyone about health and safety.

The premise was simple, and on the surface may seem slightly trivial, but the result was powerful. It opened up the lines of communication about health and safety between each supervisor and the workers in their teams. Health and safety became something that everyone participated in at all levels of the business; that everyone had something to contribute to and began to own, rather than it owning them, so to speak. In short, they took control and were empowered. And had fun along the way.

The need for speed…and safety

2 Aug

I’m standing in the queue for Rita at Alton Towers. I’ve been in the queue for about half an hour and am slowly creeping nearer to the front.

For those of you who have not experienced Rita before, it is one of the main attractions at Alton Towers.  Loosely based on a drag race, the Intamin accelerator coaster, to give it its scientific name, launches you from 0-62mph in just 2.2 seconds.

As I wait, I watch the ride above me on repeat as I stand in the queue. I hear the screams of people as the ride takes them up and down and round and round at a phenomenonal speed. Right above me is a net which has captured a number of pairs of sunglasses that have obviously flown off people’s heads.

As I inch closer to the front of the queue, the nerves start kicking in and the adrenalin starts pumping – that’ll be me soon. I just want to get it over and done with so I can say I’ve done it, but the waiting time gives me chance to study the ride – I make a mental note of where the camera is so I remember to smile, and I listen to which part of the ride produces the loudest screams, as obviously that will be the fastest, scariest bit.

I can see the platform now where people are nervously but excitedly getting in their carriage…and the people disembarking the ride while fixing their hair and laughing to their friends about how fast it was. “Oh my god, that was amazing,” I hear one girl shriek. “I bet I’ve got my eyes closed in the photo.”

There are about 35 people in front of me so it won’t be long now. But then I realise it’s all gone quiet. I don’t hear the whooshing sound of the rollercoaster as it speeds round the track or the continuous screams from the people on the ride. The ride has stopped. Rita has died.

“We regret to inform customers that Rita is currently unavailable due to a technical fault. We apologise for any inconvenience and hope to have her up and running again shortly.” As other people in the crowd respond to the announcement with a loud groan and leave the queue, I immediately put on my health and safety hat.

What technical issue? How long will it take to fix? What procedures do they have in place for fixing such an issue? As far as I can tell, there’s no one stuck on the ride, which would be my worst nightmare, but how have they come to realise that there’s a technical hitch?

As more and more people either become too impatient or think the ride is now unsafe, I edge closer to the front of the queue. Although I realise they won’t let people on the ride again until they know it’s completely safe, a part of me hopes I won’t be the first to ride once it starts up again.

After about 10 minutes with no movement and being surrounded by some increasingly impatient people all sharing horror stories about being stuck on rides, there is an announcement to say they will be carrying out a test run of the ride.

We all watch in anticipation as an empty Rita launches and flies around the track. The silence is deafening. There are no screams, but ironically the camera still takes a photo of the empty carriages. The ride ends and we wait for an outcome. It seems like forever but then finally the front of the queue moves forward and people are allowed to ride Rita again.

Luckily I’m not on the first ride. The people sat in the carriages look even more anxious than normal though. “Please let it be fixed. Please don’t let it get stuck,” I hear them pray. The ride starts and they are launched at 62mph round the track. The welcome return of screaming is hopefully a good sign. They seem to be screaming for all the right reasons.

Now it’s my turn. I take a deep breath as I take my seat in the carriage. I pull my harness down over me, ensuring it’s firmly locked in place. And we’re off. The force is incredible. I close my eyes and hold on for dear life. I think I’m screaming louder than anyone else. And then it’s over. It’s funny how we patiently queue for an hour and all for 45 seconds of sheer fear and adrenalin.

I’m pleased to say I did it and didn’t end up getting stuck – well done to the Alton Towers crew who fixed the ride quickly and efficiently. Needless to say, I wasn’t smiling in my photo…and my eyes were firmly shut!


Building a safer future at the Olympics

21 Jul

On Monday I had the pleasure of a guided tour around the Olympic Park in preparation for a feature I’m writing for September’s Safety Management. Now, I must admit, I’m not a great sports enthusiast. Not anymore at least. I can image the 14-year-old me would have been ecstatic to visit the Olympic Park. But now I was excited to see firsthand how a dangerous construction site was managing safety. I was just a bit excited to be going to the Olympic Park before its open to the public.

To begin with I sat down and had a chat with some of the people working on site to see how they have found the project. One thing that struck me is how everyone is incredibly proud, not only to be working on the Olympic Park, but to be part of a project that has such an excellent health and safety track record. So I got kitted out in my PPE and, escorted by the excellent guide Alan O’Hagan, assistant health and safety advisor at BAM Nuttall and former carpenter on the Olympic site, I had a wander around the Park.  

You really cannot escape from safety on the Park; it’s everywhere and seems to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds. I won’t list the initiatives in operation to make safety the top priority because it will take all day. But it was clear to me that everyone was engaged by the idea of safety. Safety is considered first before anything is done, which, considering construction is such a dangerous industry, is precisely as it should be.

Some have expressed doubt about whether this can ever be achieved again. But I see no reason why this should be the case. So long as everyone involved in the Olympic construction phase, whether that be the project directors, health and safety managers and advisors, contractors, workers, office staff, take the attitudes towards safety with them as they move to other projects, imparting this knowledge and these ways of working to others, we could see safety as a top priority across the board. If the thousands upon thousands of people involved in some way with the Olympic project take something of the Olympic perception about safety away with them, we could well see a safer industry.

My grandfather worked in construction his whole life, starting in the late 1940s and retiring around 12 years ago.  I can’t help feeling if he went onto a construction site now he would barely recognise it. If he could visit the Olympic Park and see the advancements made in worker health and safety, I imagine he would be slightly shocked, but incredibly pleased.

Read the full article in September’s Safety Management.