Tag Archives: Neal Stone

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.

British Safety Council welcome Labour frontbencher Andy Slaughter MP

2 Sep

Alex Botha, the chief executive of the British Safety Council, earlier this week welcomed Andy Slaughter, the Labour MP for Hammersmith and frontbench spokesperson on justice, to the organisation’s head office. 

Andy was meeting new faces and renewing acquaintances with an organisation he has known well for the last thirty years. Alex took the opportunity to brief Andy on what the British Safety Council is doing to deliver its vision that no one should be killed or made ill by their work both through its advisory, audit and training services and its funding of basic qualifications in health and safety awareness. Much of the discussion focused on the review of health and safety legislation being led by Professor Ragnar Löfstedt and the reforms to legal aid currently progressing through Parliament on which Andy is leading for Labour in the House of Commons.

Andy reflected on the fifteen months he spent as a journalist at the British Safety Council on graduating from university in the early ‘80s before going on to qualify as a barrister.  This was at a time when the new regulatory framework for health and safety enacted in 1974 was starting to impact particularly in preventing injuries and ill health occurrences.  Andy worked with an impressive team of journalists producing a weekly newspaper and monthly magazine for members – including Charles Leadbeater who went on to work for the Financial Times and a former adviser to Tony Blair and Mark Wheeler who went on to become a senior press officer at HSE.

The British Safety Council’s relationship with Andy Slaughter our local MP is an important one focusing not only on major issues concerning health and safety regulation and access to justice but on other issues too concerning the local community and environment. 

 

London 2012 – the safest games ever

10 Jun

The Olympic Delivery Authority’s (ODA) health, safety and environment awards event held last night brought home once again the full extent of the achievements of all of those thousands of workers who have been involved in the various London 2012 construction projects. I am not really interested in those purists who say it was an exceptional project driven by huge funds with powerful political backing including from government.

The exemplary health, safety and environment achievements are down to the dedication, commitment and camaraderie of managers and workers across all of the projects. I hope history does justice to these achievements and the stories of individuals and teams do not get lost. Howard Shiplee, ODA’s Director of Health and Safety, last night called on those who had worked on the various projects to take their knowledge, their commitment and their success and spread the word to others way beyond the construction sector. When we look at the London 2012 legacy of buildings in future years I hope we remember not only the medals and highlights from the games but the fact that the health and safety of all of the workers involved was properly protected.

I have over the last two years, though my involvement in the ODA health, safety and environment awards met some truly inspirational people – memories of them and their dedication will stay with me forever.

Thank you Huw Preece of Barhale. Laim O’Sullivan of UK Power Networks, Alan O’Hagan and Sean Melody of Bam Nuttall, Grant Findlay, Bill Brewer and Marcelle Hornshaw of Carillion, Stephen McNicholas of McNicholas, Thomas Faulkner of Skanskia, Bob Blackman of Unite the union and lots of others.

It’s been an honour.

Professor Löfstedt’s independent review

20 Apr

The government has today announced the terms of reference for Professor Löfstedt’s independent review of health and safety and the membership of the independent panel whose role is to “provide constructive challenges”. The aim of the review is to consider opportunities for reducing the burden of health and safety legislation on UK businesses while maintaining progress in improving health and safety outcomes. Full details of the terms of reference and membership can be found at http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/lofstedt-tor.pdf

The task that has been set for Professor Löfstedt and his advisory panel is enormous. Despite the scope of the review of legislation being far narrower than earlier intimated – HSW Act and sixteen other pieces of primary legislation are out with the scope of the review – the task of reviewing 200 sets of secondary regulations and ACOPs to see what if any can be simplified, consolidated or abolished will require considerable resources, expertise and a cool head. Importantly the review has been asked to consider the link between these regulations and positive health and safety outcomes and further whether the law needs to be strengthened in respect of irresponsible employers. The British Safety Council has already written to Professor Löfstedt inviting to speak at our conference in London on 6 July, “The future landscape of health and safety”, and indicated that we and our members are keen to submit evidence. We look forward to hearing your views.

Neal Stone on the Red Tape Challenge

12 Apr

The Prime Minister announced on 7 April the government’s determination “to tackle regulation with vigour both to free businesses to compete and create jobs, and give people greater freedom and personal responsibility”.  A new web site has been set up inviting the public to comment on a whole swathe of regulations including 131 sets of health and safety regulations – see http://www.redtapechallenge.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/health-and-safety/major-hazard-industrie/

The public are given a series of choices including “to scrap the regulations, simplify or make better.”

The thesis underlying the government announcement  is quite simple – the burden of regulation is weighing down business. Trusting people maybe a better approach than regulation.  The clear impression is created that if the public speak out in favour of scrapping regulations the government will consider and act.  There is the danger of raising expectations of a regulatory purge which, for a whole number of reasons, will not be delivered.

The British Safety Council has called for a public debate on the future of health and safety regulation and enforcement – that debate has to be an informed one underpinned by clear evidence as to what the consequences of regulatory change will be for our performance in preventing workplace injuries and ill health occurrences.

House of Lords H&S debate – update from Neal Stone

5 Apr

The House of Lords held a short debate on 4 April concerning government’s latest round of health and safety reforms set out in Good Health and Safety, Good for Everyone. Although there was a good attendance by peers the limited time available – just one hour – stifled in depth discussion of the weighty issues that go to the heart of the reforms.  Lord Freud, Government Minister responsible for health and safety, in response to a question from Lord German, announced that the terms of reference for Professor Löfstedt’s review of health and safety regulation will be published by DWP before the end of May.  Government’s intention remained that the review would make recommendations this Autumn.

Lord McKenzie of Luton, Labour spokesperson on health and safety in the Lords, questioned the minister to what extent the statistical evidence base had been properly considered by government, both for injuries and ill health, in producing the categories of low risk areas where proactive inspection will no longer take place.  From this exchange it is clear that there is much still to be discussed concerning the appropriateness of sticking transport, electricity generation and manufacturing in the low risk category.

Neal Stone reports from H&S government briefing

21 Mar

The British Safety Council was one of a number of organisations invited to a meeting this morning at which the Minister for Work and Pensions, Chris Grayling, set out the detail of government proposals for further reform of health and safety.

The main thrust of the proposals include shifting the focus of inspection to high risk workplaces and cutting out proactive inspections for smaller lower risk businesses.  It is planned that HSE will in future, recover all of the cost of inspection or investigation where a serious breach is detected and enforcement action is taken. The government also announced that there will be a major review of health and safety legislation with the aim of scrapping measures that are considered unnecessary and a burden on business.

This will involve a root and branch overhaul of our regulatory framework much of which has been in place since 1974. In response to a question from the British Safety Council, the Minister assured the meeting that there would be detailed consultation on the reform proposals, including the future of regulation and the reform of health and safety law, with sufficient time for organisations as ours to fully consult it members on these important measures.   

For further detail of the proposals go to the DWP website – Good health and safety, Good for everyonehttp://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/good-health-and-safety.pdf