Health and safety deregulation for low-risk self-employed

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (General Duties of Self- Employed Persons) (Prescribed Undertakings) Regulations 2015 come into force on 1 October 2015. They specify the circumstances in which selfemployed persons must comply with their duty under section 3(2) the 1974 Act to conduct their undertakings in such a way as to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, they and anyone who may be affected by their work activities are not exposed to risks to their health and safety.

The new rules seek to exempt self-employed persons such as someone using a computer or carrying out telemarketing activities where there is negligible risk to health or safety. There are no exemptions for some specified activities, including those working with gas, or on construction sites. A general provision states that the exemptions will not apply where work may expose another person to risk.

CDM transitional arrangements end

When the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015) came into force in April, a transitional arrangement applied for a CDM co-ordinator already in post. If the project is still active, the client must appoint a principal designer to replace the CDM co-ordinator by 6 October 2015.

Safety signs and signals

HSE has published an updated version of guidance note L64, which sets out what employers must do to meet the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996. This third edition of the document brings the guidance up to date with regulatory and other changes, such as those concerning the Classification, Labelling and Packaging of Chemicals (Amendments to Secondary Legislation) Regulations 2015.

The version of the Regulations included in the document has been amended to reflect those changes, with the emphasis still being on signs only being used where significant risks remain despite putting in place all other relevant measures. Hard copies of L64 (revised) can be purchased for £15 from HSE Books, or a free download version can be accessed at: www.hse.gov.uk/ pubns/priced/l64.pdf

HSE backtrack on paid-for inspections

Last year, the Department for Work and Pensions asked the Health and Safety Executive to explore the opportunity of selling inspection services to larger employers, as a way to generate revenue.

It appears this idea has now been abandoned, or at least put on the back-burner, following discussions with several target organisations. The official line is that HSE found little enthusiasm from those employers who had been offered the chance to purchase inspection and consultancy services directly from the regulator.

TUC fears Government “taking a swipe” at safety reps

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has expressed concern that the Government’s Trade Union Bill, currently going through Parliament, will “dramatically curtail the time available to union safety reps to perform their functions and get trained”.

Hugh Robertson, the TUC head of safety, said: “The Bill says that any public sector employer who has at least one union health and safety representative, will have to record and publish all the time taken and any facilities provided. This is bureaucratic, pointless and will just mean that both employers and union representatives will have to spend a lot of time on paperwork. However, even more dangerous, is the proposal to allow ministers to restrict the rights to time off given to union health and safety representatives by amending the Health and Safety at Work Act.”

Link between risk factors and productivity

The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine reports that a survey of 97,000 workers has found a strong relationship between reductions in health risk and increases in productivity. The study’s authors say that employers should seek to invest in a “culture of health” and that policies such as flexible working are factors contributing to lower health-related absences.

Farm manager jailed over workers’ deaths

A practice known as “scuba diving” led to the deaths of two agricultural workers in a nitrogen-filled apple store.

Winchester Crown Court heard that the two men were following a system of work devised by their manager, Andrew Stocker, and entered the store to retrieve produce for the Marden Fruit Show. This involved them accessing the store via a small hatch and holding their breath whilst selecting the choicest fruits.

The normal concentration of oxygen in air is around 21% and once it drops below 19.5% this is considered oxygen-deficient. Measurement in the apple store where the men suffocated showed only 1%.

Mr Stocker, who was away in the Maldives when the incident took place, admitted that his work practices exposed employees to a risk of death and was sentenced to 30 months in jail. Blackmoor Estate Limited was fined £75,000 with costs on top.

Fashion company fined for child’s death

Oxford Crown Court has fined Hugo Boss UK a total of £1.2m for breaches of safety legislation, with costs of £46,000, after the company admitted responsibility for the death of a child at its Bicester Village outlet. The fines were for breaches of the general duty towards a non-employee, and failing to adequately manage risks at the shop.

The incident concerned a 7ft high mirror weighing around 250lbs which had been left propped up against a wall for several months. It fell onto a 4-year-old boy who sustained brain damage and died a few days later in hospital. The court was told that there had been several similar incidents at the company’s other stores and it was a matter of good luck that no-one had been harmed before the tragic event at Bicester. Despite recommendations for such mirrors to be fixed to walls, a point previously covered in managers’ training, no action had been taken.

Near-drowning leads to fines for Councils

Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council were fined £9,000 and £4,000 respectively after a pupil from Ferryhill Primary School nearly died during a school excursion to Stonehaven Open Air Pool. Inadequate staffing and poor lifeguard positioning meant that the 11-year-old boy lay undetected at the bottom of the pool until spotted by a member of the public, who lifted him out.

Following cardiopulmonary resuscitation the boy, who had stopped breathing, regained consciousness and made a full recovery. Aberdeen City Council is responsible for the school, while the pool is operated by Aberdeenshire Council. Both admitted breaches of safety legislation.

Private school fined after tree-felling incident

Alpha Schools Limited appeared before Aylesbury Crown Court after a man helping to fell a tree was seriously injured. He was assisting a contractor who was brought in to clear a site, when a cut branch swung down and threw him off his ladder. The school’s owner was ordered to pay fines and costs of £60,000, while Paolo Mule (trading as P&X Complete Cleaning Services) received an 18-month prison sentence suspended for two years.

The injured man, who suffered permanent spinal injuries, was given an ex gratia payment of £50,000 by the school. The court heard that the school failed to select a competent contractor and the contractor had not made an assessment of the risk. No thought had been given to securing the ladder and the work zone was not cordoned off despite members of the public being in the area.