Richard Jones, head of policy and public affairs at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), explains the changes to the regulatory framework for health and safety that will be impacting industry in 2012
Next year, the government will be continuing to roll-out its ‘good health and safety, good for everyone’ plans for reform of the health and safety system of Great Britain.
This means that we’re likely to see certain changes to the regulatory framework for health and safety. For example, there are proposed changes to the Reporting of Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR), Control of Asbestos Regulations, extension of cost recovery for interventions by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), and a new version of HSG65.
The changes to RIDDOR will mean extending the period before which employers must report a work related accident, where an injured worker is unable to do their normal work, from over three days (O3D) to over seven days (O7D). Importantly, employers will still be required to record O3D accidents in their ‘accident books’.
IOSH has recommended that the proposed changes need to be accompanied by a strong communication strategy, to avoid confusion and ensure that employers understand the need to still record, investigate and prevent O3D injuries. We have also recommended that a reminder be placed on fit notes for employers to report work related accidents to act as an additional ‘trigger’.
Following the European Commission’s ‘reasoned opinion’ that the UK had failed to properly comply with the Asbestos Worker Protection Directive, the Control of Asbestos Regulations are being revised. The changes required will mean that as well as ‘licensed’ and ‘non-licensed’ work, a third category of ‘notifiable, non-licensed work’ may be introduced.
This new category will have requirements to notify work with asbestos to the enforcing authority, carry out medical examinations and maintain registers of work (health records). However, it will be exempt from the requirements for a licence, to have arrangements to deal with accident, incidents and emergencies, and to designate ‘asbestos areas’.
The HSE has also consulted on a proposal to extend cost recovery where duty holders are found to be in ‘material breach’ of health and safety laws. This would apply if a requirement to rectify is made formally in writing e.g. by letter, e-mail or enforcement notice and would be known as ‘fees for intervention’.
The regulator is also intending to extend cost recovery for ‘onshore boreholes’, land use planning and initial advice to large projects requested by developers. IOSH supports proportionate cost recovery in principle, because we see benefits in a system that transfers costs from the taxpayer to those organisations that put people at risk, helps create a level playing field, and reinforces the business case for good health and safety, which is what the latest IOSH campaign, ‘Li£e Savings’ is all about – see www.iosh.co.uk/lifesavings for further details.
Handle with care
However, we do think this initiative needs to be carefully handled to ensure public confidence in the consistency of the system. And IOSH has long called for more government support and education to help small businesses to comply with health and safety requirements and will continue to do so.
Further to this, IOSH supports the HSE’s work to revise its flagship publication HSG65 (Successful health and safety management), making it more ‘user friendly’, especially for SMEs, as part of its on-going simplification process. The revised guide, due to be issued early in the new year, will be more people focused (rather than systems) and outcomes focused (rather than process), and align more closely throughout with the ‘Plan, Do, Check, Act’ model. The new guide will be much shorter than the original and will be supported by information and resources on the HSE’s new webpage ‘Managing for health and safety’ (www.hse.gov.uk/managing/index.htm).
The government commissioned review of health and safety legislation has also now been completed, with around 200 statutory instruments in scope. IOSH’s position is that while we support streamlining of legislation, we believe it needs to be a change of style and not of substance – there should be no lowering of standards of worker or public protection.
In Great Britain, we have a risk-based health and safety system and have already simplified legislation in this area, almost halving the number of regulations on the statute books since the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974. So we believe the focus should instead be on providing education and support for small firms to help them understand their health and safety responsibilities and how to fulfil them.
IOSH is also keen to improve the standing of health and safety and to prevent the generation of the unhelpful urban myths in the public arena we’ve seen in recent years. We believe that better public understanding of the requirements will help people to take sensible decisions and to challenge any crazy ones. We’d like a cultural change in which there’s greater appreciation of the many benefits of good health and safety, better ability to deliver it and less misperception of it as a burden.