Tag Archives: Mark Tyler

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.

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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.