Monthly Archives: January 2012

“Fee for Intervention” proposals to be adopted

Following the end of public and formal consultation procedures in October 2011, the Board of the Health and Safety Executive has announced its conclusions. Fee for Intervention (previously known as fee for fault) will be adopted from April 2012 broadly along the lines originally proposed, but with a headline charge of £124 an hour instead of £133.

This reduction is simply because HSE’s own costs are lower as a result of internal savings and job reductions. Consultation concluded that it was reasonable for noncompliant employers to bear the costs associated with their failings, rather than the taxpayer.

There will be shadow-running of the processes and procedures between now and March, with cost recovery becoming operational in April. Earlier dry runs took place in Chelmsford, Bedford, Basingstoke, Newcastle and Norwich.

Compliant organisations will not have to pay for inspectors’ time but where a material breach is discovered, the charges will be applied. A material breach is defined as where, in the opinion of the inspector, there has been a contravention of a health and safety law that requires written notification to the employer. Written notification includes email, letter, enforcement notice, prosecution, or a hand-written report on the day of the visit.

Accident reporting

Following a consultation exercise that drew around 800 responses, the Health and Safety Executive recommended to the Work and Pensions Secretary that the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR) be amended.

The change is to the category of “over three-day injury”, which will become over-seven days from April 2012. Most respondents felt that the change would be beneficial as administration burdens will reduce, and the new period would match to that required under the new fit-note system. Not only would it make sickness absence easier to manage, it should give more time for employers to become aware of any incident and reduce under-reporting.

Professor Löfstedt’s review of health and safety

Professor Löfstedt was asked to continue the work originally started by Lord Young, who was given a brief of introducing more common sense approach to health and safety.

Löfstedt, himself a Professor of Risk Management, came up with 26 recommendations. The Government has undertaken to implement these within a given timetable and the more significant proposals are shown below:

By summer 2012:

  • Simplify the guidance for small businesses, and make this consistent from all sources.
  • Cease visiting compliant low risk businesses.

By 2013:

  • Exempt low-risk self-employed people from health and safety law.
  • Revoke regulations deemed as unnecessary.

By 2014:

  • Further simplify the accident reporting regime
  • Influence EU legislation so it is risk and evidence based.
  • Consolidate regulations by industry sector, halving the total number.

Worrying failures in school asbestos management

The Health and Safety Executive has published a report into asbestos management at a sample of 164 independent, voluntary-aided and foundation schools and academies. Of these, 110 were found to require “advice” whist 28 schools were served formal notices.

Typical failings included inadequate training, absence of an asbestos survey, no management plan, and no system to manage risks. HSE highlighted that confusion appears to exist in some schools over the roles and responsibilities of duty holders.

Michael Lees of the Asbestos in Schools campaign described the findings as “disgraceful and dangerous”.

Accident rates are falling, but stress is increasing

Despite a rise in the number of fatal injuries in 2010/11, the overall number of accidents has seen a 6% decrease compared with 2009/10. Workplace fatalities rose from 147 to 171.

Predictably, the sectors with the highest injury rates are construction and agriculture where the levels are 173 and 111 injuries per 100,000 workers respectively. It is estimated that over 22 million working days were lost due to ill health and another 4.4 million because of injury.

A survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development shows that for the first time, stress is the most common reason for long-tem absence in both professional and manual workers, superseding musculoskeletal disorders and acute medical conditions.

Upcoming Code Revisions

Whilst there is nothing of significance to report in the last couple of months, as part of the Löfstedt Review, HSE is obliged to review all 53 Approved Codes of Practice in the first few months of 2012. This will inevitably lead to a number of revisions and potentially the amalgamation of some Codes.

Costly waste errors

Harrogate Magistrates fined three companies a total of £38,200 after 10 tonnes of food waste was left on grazing land, leading to a risk of foot-and-mouth disease. FD Todd & Sons took the waste from Pro-Pak Foods to a farm run by Coast to Coast Recycling. The recipient believed it was vegetable material but the Pro-Pak had changed the content. Failure to complete transfer notes, and not checking the material, had led to the offences.

In a separate case, Torquay Magistrates fined retailer Trago Mills £185,000 for burning and dumping up to 6,000 tonnes of waste over many years. The Environment Agency told the Court that the company sidestepped existing recycling schemes to avoid the costs of correct disposal.

M&S put profit before safety

Bournemouth Crown Court fined Marks and Spencer’s £1m with £600,000 costs after a breach of asbestos rules at the Broad Street, Reading, store.

Contractors had worked night shifts to remove asbestos, completing small sections before trading resumed each day. The Judge heard that contractors, shop staff and the public were at risk of asbestos exposure. The Health and Safety Executive had alleged that M&S failed to ensure removal work met at least the minimum standards. The company had produced its own guidance on the task, but the contractors failed to follow these properly. Three contracting companies were fined £150,000 in total.

Discount store ignored fire safety rules

Poundstretcher were prosecuted after Doncaster Council found that all the fire exit routes at the Doncaster warehouse were blocked.

The initial enforcement action was to serve an Improvement Notice. However, a subsequent visit found that although there had been some progress, contraventions still existed and an appearance at the Magistrates’ Court was merited. Doncaster Magistrates handed down fines and costs totalling £43,000. This follows convictions for similar offences at two other Yorkshire branches of Poundstretcher in 2009.

Bus operator fined after worker injured

Teenager Ben Burgin required plastic surgery to his face after being trapped by a bus he was working on.

The incident happened at Wakefield Road garage in Barnsley. The employee, who worked for Yorkshire Traction Company, was with an experienced fitter trying to solve a braking fault on a bus that had an air suspension system. They chose not to move the bus to an inspection pit, and Mr Burgin slid underneath near the front passenger wheel. The air suspension failed suddenly and the bus dropped down on his face.

The Stockport-based company admitted offences under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and incurred fines and costs totalling around £24,000. An HSE spokesman said “The risks involved when working on buses with air suspension systems are well known in the industry. The latest guidance has warnings about never going underneath unless buses are properly supported. There have been incidents in the past, including deaths, when air suspension systems have failed catastrophically. Yorkshire Traction fell well below a reasonable standard. It failed to take basic precautions such as looking at all the risks involved and specifying a safe system of work, including close supervision.