Tag Archives: Löfstedt review

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.

Advertisements

Tangled up in red tape?

1 Jul

If you’ve ever been driven mad by the requirements of a set of health and safety regulations, feel the legal duties need amending or scrapping, or even simply wish to defend the UK’s existing legal framework for health and safety from attack, now is your chance, as the government’s much trumpeted Red Tape Challenge is focusing specifically on health and safety legislation for the next three weeks.

The Red Tape Challenge was launched in April by David Cameron, and aims to offer everyone – from members of the public and employees to business owners and community groups – the chance to have their say on regulations that affect their everyday lives. Specifically, the website seeks views on the 21,000 regulations currently in force in the UK in areas ranging from employment law to pensions, equalities to environmental protection, and the government is urging those with an interest in any of these regulatory issues to speak up and make their views known.

In the government’s own words: “We want to hear from everyone, whether you think a regulation is well designed and provides vital protections, or if you think a regulation in badly planned, badly implemented or simply a bad idea.” The aim, ministers add, is to “give a real boost to growth and personal freedoms” by scrapping some of the 21,000 regulations that are “getting in the way” of the public, businesses and community organisations.

Health and safety regulation is one of six “cross-cutting” themes on the Red Tape Challenge website and the public will be able to provide comments on health and safety laws throughout the whole of the Red Tape Challenge campaign, which is due to run for several months. However, from 30 June – 21 July there will be a special focus on health and safety laws to further encourage people to air their thoughts.

The website allows people to comment on all existing health and safety regulations – around 200 in total – and to make the process easier, these have been grouped into four different categories. These are: general health and safety; major hazard industries; higher risk workplaces; and dealing with hazardous chemicals and materials. Hundreds of comments have already been received on health and safety law, many of which can be read on the website.

Importantly, the government has promised to listen and act on what people say – indeed, every four months government departments have to comment on the six “cross-cutting” themes to ensure the review’s momentum is maintained – so this is an important opportunity for those interested in health and safety regulation to get their opinions across.

The health and safety aspects of the Red Tape Challenge are also closely linked with the independent review of health and safety legislation currently being carried out by Professor Ragnar Löfstedt as part of the government’s recently announced package of changes to Britain’s health and safety system. Like the Red Tape Challenge, the Löfstedt review seeks views on ways of combining, simplifying and reducing health and safety regulations, and responses to the health and safety aspects of the Red Tape Challenge will be fed to the professor for his consideration. In fact, Professor Löfstedt has been appointed as the ‘sector champion’ for health and safety throughout the Red Tape Challenge, acting as an intermediary between stakeholders in this area and the government and helping to direct the web-based debates and discussions.

British Safety Council members have already been asked to comment on the Löfstedt health and safety legislation review to help formulate our official response to the professor’s call for evidence, but the Red Tape Challenge website provides another forum for interested parties to make their voices heard in this area.

So, if you feel like getting something off your chest about health and safety law, take a look at the Red Tape Challenge website – your comments could make all the difference.

All Party Parliamentary Group on Health and Safety

22 Jun

 The British Safety Council attended the meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Health and Safety on 21 June 2011.

Gordon McDonald of the HSE spoke on the issue of fee for intervention, which is a central, and probably the most immediate, part of the government’s planned legislation. This would be in relation to the recovery of costs of effort where there is evidence of non-compliance.

McDonald reported that HSE has been undertaking some early consultation with a range of stakeholders on the proposals, and will continue to do so into July. Some have already been identified. Local authorities reportedly expressed a “mixed view” about cost recovery – with many wondering whether they would be given discretion to decide whether to levy a cost recovery notice, or not. The HSE will be seeking clarification from the Lofstedt review on this issue. It will also be seeking to ensure that concerns about inspector consistency are met. There has also been concern that inspectors may in some cases be motivated by motives related to revenue generation , rather than pure health and safety issues. The HSE will be looking to allay such concerns as well. Hopefully, such issues will be tackled by the 12-week consultation exercise that the HSE is launching in July 2011. He emphasised that the consultation will not be about the policy “as that was taken as read” but rather focus on how to make it workable. It was anticipated that they will be doing a dry-run of the charging system October through to December 2011, before implementation in April 2012.

Additionally, he identified three further areas that will be targeted in relation to cost recovery, though these were not as immediate. One area includes cost recovery in hazard sectors already not covered by such an approach, such as mining, pipelines and explosives.. Another is in relation to charges associated with land-use planning where HSE is a statutory consultee, which will need to be addressed through the planning legislation. A third area is regarding costs to account for statutory advice when sought by parties, such pre-application advice to developers or to foreign governments. When raised as a question, MacDonald responded that currently it is unclear whether the revenue from such services will feed back into the HSE.

Andrew Miller, MP, spoke about his views on the Lofstedt Review, on which he will be the Labour representative. According to Miller, Professor Lofstedt was keen to ensure that his role would be independent before he took the post, an encouraging sign. What Miller found somewhat less encouraging was the mass of statutory instruments up for “simplification.” Some 200 SIs in 30 workplace categories are listed in the call for evidence – and all need to be dealt with in detail. Miller expressed fears that this would not be possible, and that pressures to over-simplify could prevail.

Nevertheless, he recognised the opportunity to address those regulations that may be out of date and the potential to consolidate some, while cautioning that reducing the amount of regulations might give some “numbers game satisfaction” without affecting real change that can be felt by businesses and workers.

 

Blog by:
Sam Urquhart, Interim campaigns and engagement manager

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 http://britsafe-email.org/go.asp?/bBSC001/qZS3591F/x8B3N91F