What will happen to OSH regulation now we’re out of the EU?

On Friday 24th, the day after the UK’s vote to leave the European Union ex-London mayor and Conservative leadership candidate Boris Johnson said withdrawal from the union gives the UK the

“glorious opportunity to set its own laws”.

How much of our worker protection legislation will be reset depends on a combination of economic and political necessity.

The think tank Open Europe calculated that two-thirds of OSH-related regulations introduced between 1997 and 2009 originated in the EU.  There is no doubting the union’s influence on our safety and health law.   But there are good reasons not to unpick our framework, however it was acquired and however “glorious” the opportunity for change.

We will probably see no attempt to amend most of the standards and thresholds that came to us via directives – there is enough research supporting metrics such as the 85dBA and 80dBA action levels for workplace noise, to make them unlikely targets for reform.

They have also contributed to our improving OSH metrics. IOSH’s head of policy and public affairs Richard Jones responded to the vote to leave saying: “Now we’re exiting, it’s vital the UK continues to apply our successful risk-based health and safety system, which includes laws from EU directives, because it’s been found to be fit for purpose by several independent reviews and is respected and imitated across the world. IOSH will continue to promote agreed international standards and to defend against any erosion of health and safety protections.”

The former chair of the UK Parliament’s EU scrutiny committee, Michael Connarty, made much the same point when he noted 90% of EU legislation in force in the UK would probably have been introduced even without our obligations as a member state.

So what might we change? As Howard Fidderman pointed out in his recent article for this magazine, likely candidates for eventual revision or abolition include the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations – to remove duties for domestic clients, the Optical Radiation Regulations, the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations – increasing the hazard threshold that requires a warning and removing the requirement in the Display Screen Equipment Regulations for employers to pay for workers’ eye tests.

The government has also expressed an interest in changing requirements for written risk assessments for businesses in what it sees as low-risk sectors and it has a longstanding irritation with the EU-derived Working Time Regulations.

Any further attempts to reduce protection would most likely be triggered only if the UK’s economy was threatened by a decline in trade and inward investment, deregulation would be one way to try to try to restore our position as an attractive base off the European mainland, speaking the international business lingua franca. That’s a position we will otherwise cede to Ireland.

(A period of economic contraction could also result in more cuts for the UK’s main OSH regulator, the Health and Safety Executive, which is already due to have lost 47% of its government grant over the 10 years to 2020.)

These scenarios assume we retain a conservative government. It’s hard to imagine a Labour administration would have health and safety deregulation on its agenda.

The other major factor influencing how much room we have to change safety and health regulation will be how we fare in negotiating an EU trade deal; we need to maintain favourable terms as almost 13% of our GDP depends on exports to the remaining 27 states.

Polling before the vote suggested a majority of UK people favoured a similar arrangement as that Norway enjoys if we left. The conditions of such a deal, granting us membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) with continued access to the free market in goods and services, would commit us to maintain EU standards in so-called “flanking” areas, including employment conditions such as OSH law. The EEA option may prove unacceptable to those who voted to leave, as one of the “four freedoms” the other regulatory sectors flank is freedom of movement of people between countries; something many Brexit voters were keen to curtail.

Another option would be an associative relationship such as that enjoyed by Switzerland, which involves membership of the European Free Trade Association and would allow us to sign bilateral agreements with the union (Switzerland has more than 100 of these). The Swiss voted in favour of introducing curbs on the free movement of EU citizens in and out of their country two years ago but are having trouble implementing them because the EU is threatening to unravel the trade agreements if they do. The division appearing between those who led the leave campaign in the UK who say we cannot do without immigration curbs and those who say we cannot do without free trade with the EU 27 could lead us to a similar impasse.

Any looser form of association, like that between Turkey and the EU, for instance would give us more freedom. But it could also lose us favourable terms for providing services to the member states and threaten our £60 billion annual trade surplus in financial services and insurance.

However these variables align, what is sure is that nothing will happen soon. As I write, there is not even any consensus on how and when the EU authorities will be notified formally that the UK intends to secede.

The UK’s legislators are likely to be tied up for a minimum of two years redefining our relationship with the European bloc and in multiple trade talks with other states. When it does get round to domestic changes, the government will probably have to prioritise the leave campaign’s promises such as ending the European Court of Justice’s jurisdiction over national security and abolishing VAT on domestic energy.

Brexit may give us more control over OSH law, trade agreements permitting, but it will be some time before we exercise that control and then probably to a very limited extent.

Louis Wustemann
Louis Wustemann is editor, IOSH Magazine. He was previously editor of Health and Safety at Work magazine and Environment in Business. He has written, edited and consulted on health and safety, environmental and employment matters for more than 25 years.

June 2016 – Using Mobile Phones When Driving

 

June 2016 NEWSLETTER
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Using mobile phones when driving

Is merely complying with the law sufficient?  Phil Jones discusses.

More than a quarter of all road traffic incidents may involve someone who at that time is driving as part of their work (Department for Transport figures).

Furthermore, there is a substantial body of research that shows using a hands-free mobile phone whilst driving is a significant distraction, and substantially increases the risk of the driver having an accident.

NHS Foundation Trust fined £200,000 for safety failings

Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust has been fined for safety failings after 90-year-old Major James Fyfe, suffered a broken neck and a cut to his head as a result of a fall from a QA3 trolley. He died 26 days later.

Myth-busting by the HSE

Library will not let users plug their laptops into power sockets for health and safety reasons

A Council run library will not let users plug their laptops into electrical outlets because of a risk of tripping or in case of faulty laptop charger plugs.

Read the Panel’s decision HERE.

Supermarket cafe refused to sell customer a packet of untoasted fruit bread

Supermarket cafe refused to sell customer a packet of fruit bread for health and safety reasons as he didn’t want it toasted before taking it home.
Read the Panel’s decision HERE.

The HSE Myth Busters Challenge Panel provides a mechanism to independently challenge potentially disproportionate or inaccurate advice or decisions, made in the name of health and safety.

“We think that communicating these decisions will help all our clients with a better insight into the ongoing ‘perception v’s reality’ arguments which appear in the media from time to time”.
Phil Jones

From the Team
Join us this year at Flat Living Live.  We are looking forward to another fantastic few days, this year at the new venue; Olympia 6th – 7th July.This year we will also be hosting a seminar on both days.  In attendance we will have with us some of our most expert consultants.  We will open the floor to questions and aim to answer them thoroughly for you.

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Tragic fall from height

H20 Plumbing Services Limited were contracted to carry out repairs to two motor rooms situated on the roof of a building on Hagley Road, Birmingham.  Fines were issued after a worker died after falling from the roof of a five-storey building.Read More

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Bedrail Faliures lead to £400,000 fines for BUPA Care Homes

An earlier guilty plea in Carlisle Magistrates’ Court lead the District Judge to refer the case to Carlisle Crown Court for sentencing.  BUPA Care Homes (CFC Homes) Ltd has been fined over the inappropriate management of bedrails at one of its care homes.

Bedrails in care homes are used to help prevent vulnerable residents from falling from bed, but they should to be used appropriately, and staff must be trained in both their use and the process of assessment to identify suitable measures to protect individual patients from falls.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) told the court that at Beacon Edge Specialist Nursing Home in Penrith, Cumbria, BUPA Care Homes (CFC Homes) Ltd failed to ensure it managed the risk of bedrails through appropriate assessment and review of bedrail arrangements, and failed to train staff in the assessment of and safe use of bedrails.

The court was told the company had a policy on bedrail management but it was not fully implemented as staff were not trained and assessments not conducted or reviewed when required.

The case related to the management of bedrails in relation to a vulnerable resident who died at the home. The company failed to ensure the patient’s bedrail assessment was suitable and sufficient, reviewed following falls and deterioration in health and that staff were trained in bedrail risk assessment.

The reviews of the bedrail assessment should have identified further measures to prevent the risk of falls, but staff that carried out the initial assessment and reviews were not adequately trained. Furthermore, measures identified to protect the resident where not implemented correctly and increased checks on the resident were not carried out as instructed by a medical professional.

At the hearing BUPA Care Homes (CFC Homes) Ltd admitted breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974; Regulation 9 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, and was fined £400,000 with £15,206 costs.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Carol Forster said:

“The need for adequate risk assessment and management of third party bedrails has been recognised in the healthcare sector for a number of years and guidance and advice has been published by the relevant bodies to this effect.

Bedrails are used to protect vulnerable people from falling out of bed but each patient should be assessed individually and appropriate measures taken to protect them from falls from bed. Staff working with bedrails must be appropriately trained in the use of bedrails and in the patient assessment process.

“In this case there was a lack of appropriate assessment of the residents’ changing needs and review of the control measures in place to protect her. The measures that were in place were not used correctly in that the sensor pad which would have alerted staff to the resident’s being out of bed was not switched on.

The company failed to comply with the expected standards in bedrail management and training and I hope this case will send a strong message to others with responsibilities for bedrail management.”

British Telecommunications PLC fined £600,000

Two employees within British Telecommunications PLC were seriously injured in falls from height.  Teesside Crown Court heard how two British Telecommunications (BT) Open Reach engineers had been given a job at BT’s Darlington Automatic Telephone Exchange.  One of the engineers was installing a cable through a hole on the first floor along a ceiling level cable tray to the Main Distribution Frame (MDF) on the ground floor.

In order to carry out this work he was working on a stepladder in amongst the lighting system. He felt a pain in his right arm and fell from the step ladder. He was taken to hospital with head and back injuries.

The accident was not properly investigated and later that day the work was allowed to continue. The second engineer continued with the work himself, from a different ladder. However he too fell to the ground and was taken to hospital with serious skull and back injuries.

A year after the accident, the first engineer returned to work for BT. However he had lost his sense of smell and taste and required physiotherapy for a number of years. The second engineer received serious multiple fractures of the skull and spine, his sense of smell and taste had been affected, he was blinded in one eye, and has long term memory problems.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into both incidents, which occurred on 1st April 2010, found that the work had not been properly assessed or planned, despite workers being exposed to such serious risks as working at height close to an electrical system.

Serious failings were also found within the electrical lighting system in that area, where workers were exposed to live metal parts, some at 240 volts. The system was poorly constructed and had not been properly maintained or tested. It is most likely that both engineers received electric shocks which threw them from the ladders.

British Telecommunication PLC, of Newgate Street, London, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and was fined £600,000 and ordered to pay costs of £60,000.

HSE inspector Laura Lyons said after the hearing:

“Work at height and working close to electrical systems needs to be properly assessed and planned so that adequate controls can be put in place. This duty rests firmly with the employer. These life changing incidents could have been avoided if BT had provided safe systems of work and ensured that the electrical systems were properly constructed, maintained and tested. ”

For further information on working at height visit the HSE Website

May 2016 – Asbestos Disturbance

 

May 2016 NEWSLETTER
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Two companies fined for the disturbance of asbestos

Investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the client had not passed on the details of the presence of asbestos to the contractor, despite prior knowledge.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court have fined two companies after hearing how two employees of 24-Hour Maintenance Services Limited disturbed asbestos insulating board (AIB) whilst they carried out refurbishment work at a former commercial premises, undergoing conversion into flats, in Romford, London.

Asbestos exposure – more fines

Peter Wade from County Durham has been fined for potentially exposing members of the public to asbestos fibres during the refurbishment of a residential property on South Parade, Croft on Tees, County Durham.

Darlington Magistrates’ Court heard how Peter Wade of Staindrop, was converting an integrated garage into a bedroom at the property. While he was visiting the property for a quote, the home owners mentioned the possibility of asbestos in the garage.

Myth-busting by the HSE

A Council run library will not let users plug their laptops into electrical outlets because of a risk of tripping or in case of faulty laptop charger plugs

Read the Panel’s decision HERE.

Supermarket banned foldaway bicycle from store for health and safety reasons

A supermarket banned a customer from taking his foldaway bicycle into store for health and safety reasons.
Read the Panel’s decision HERE.

The HSE Myth Busters Challenge Panel provides a mechanism to independently challenge potentially disproportionate or inaccurate advice or decisions, made in the name of health and safety.

“We think that communicating these decisions will help all our clients with a better insight into the ongoing ‘perception v’s reality’ arguments which appear in the media from time to time”.
Phil Jones

From the Team

As many of you will know, here at Quantum we are proud of our continued progression, bringing you only the best in service and performance.

We have just completed our Alpha Tracker systems training in readiness for our switch over to this new platform in the coming weeks.

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Two deaths after crane collapse

A national crane hire company has been sentenced and fines of £850,000 for failings that led to the death of two men as a crane collapsed in London.Read More

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April 2016 – Property Death Trap

 

April 2016 NEWSLETTER
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HMO Condemned as Death Trap

Nine tenants given four days to pack up and leave premisis.

Officers from Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) and Highland Council found life-threatening electrical, hygiene and fire safety concerns at the unlicensed house in multiple occupation (HMO) in Inverness.  The Inverness Courier has reported that nine tenants were given four days to pack up and leave their home after it was condemned as a death-trap and their landlord could not be traced.

The premises, Drumdevan House, comprised of an eight-bedroomed listed building, neighbouring summer house and two caravans. The building appears to have fallen into considerable disrepair.

Fined for unsafe work at height

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard Ideal Glazing (Euro) Ltd carried out window installation work at Aldford House, Park Street, London, between 19 and 20 January 2015 that put their workers and members of the public at risk of suffering serious injuries or a fatality.

Myth-busting by the HSE

Family told by undertaker that shoes are not allowed on deceased’s body for funeral

Family arranging a funeral told by undertaker that the deceased would not be allowed to wear shoes as it was against health and safety regulations.

Read the Panel’s decision HERE.A gym reduced it’s 24/7 opening hours, closing overnight for health and safety reasons

Read the Panel’s decision HERE.

The HSE Myth Busters Challenge Panel provides a mechanism to independently challenge potentially disproportionate or inaccurate advice or decisions, made in the name of health and safety.

“We think that communicating these decisions will help all our clients with a better insight into the ongoing ‘perception v’s reality’ arguments which appear in the media from time to time”.
Phil Jones

Asbestos Exposure

Members of the public exposed to asbestos.

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Our Accreditation

Membership within the LCA comprises service providers, manufacturers, installers and consultancies which offer products and services associated with the control of legionella in water systems.Read More

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March 2016 – Pupils Paralysed

 

March 2016 NEWSLETTER
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Swing collapse leaves pupil paralysed

Hertfordshire pupil permanently paralysed

St Albans Magistrates’ Court heard how a 13-year-old pupil at the school was playing on a wooden swing in an adventure playground.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the swing had collapsed because the supporting timbers had rotted. The heavy wooden cross beam of the swing fell onto the pupil’s head and neck causing spinal injuries that resulted in permanent paralysis.

Council Fined after Legionella death at care home

After the death of a pensioner, who died from exposure to legionella, Reading Borough Council (RBC) has been fined following an investigation into the death.

Myth-busting by the HSE

Nightclub refused to serve salt and lemon with Tequila shots

Bar manager refused to serve salt and lemon with Tequila shots to customers in a nightclub due to health and safety.

Read the Panel’s decision HERE.

The HSE Myth Busters Challenge Panel provides a mechanism to independently challenge potentially disproportionate or inaccurate advice or decisions, made in the name of health and safety.

“We think that communicating these decisions will help all our clients with a better insight into the ongoing ‘perception v’s reality’ arguments which appear in the media from time to time”.
Phil Jones

Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS)

First Deadline Passed

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New Sentencing Guidelines

Within the last eight weeks penalties ranging from £750,000 – £2million have been handed out.  These have been issued prior to the introduction of new guidelines that have been predicted to dramatically change sentencing, that have now come into force throughout England and Wales.Read More

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NHS Foundation Trust has been fined for safety failings

Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust has been fined for safety failings in its management of the use and maintenance of Anetic Aid QA3 trolleys.

The incident occured in March 2011 when a patient at  the NHS Foundation Trust, 90-year-old Major James Fyfe, suffered a broken neck and a cut to his head as a result of a fall from a QA3 trolley. He died 26 days later.  The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) began an investigation which found that there was a lack of maintenance to the QA3 trolley and a lack of training in an essential aspect of its use.

Reading Crown Court heard that although HSE did not conclude that in this case Mr Fyfe’s incident was caused by the hospital’s failings.

Maintenance of equipment is an essential part of keeping both patients and staff safe. If the organisation had had a comprehensive system for servicing and maintenance of QA3 trolleys, then it would have picked up the issues surrounding maintenance. For the effective maintenance of equipment and the use of that equipment, suitable training needs to be implemented appropriately.

HSE Inspector Sharron Cripps said:

“This incident could have been prevented. It is especially important in large organisations that they have effective systems in place to control risks and to check that the systems are working. “

Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust of Craven Road, Reading, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £76,305.62