Thursday 29 December 2011

Rationalising health and safety law

Self-employed people in low-risk occupations will be among the first to benefit from a wholesale revamp of health and safety regulation, which has been promised "sooner rather than later" by employment minister, Chris Grayling, in response to 'Reclaiming health and safety for all: An independent review of health and safety regulation'.

While the review by Professor Lofstedt concludes that the regulatory regime offers vital protection for employees and the public, it identifies factors such as inconsistent enforcement and the influence of third parties that drive businesses beyond what the regulations require and generate excessive paperwork. It makes a total of 26 commendations, of which the following five are being acted upon as a priority:

  1. 1) The Health & Safety Executive has been asked to take urgent action to draw up proposals exempting from health and safety law those self employed people in low risk occupations that represent no risk to others.
  2. 2) HSE will review its Approved Codes of Practice (ACoP), which, according to Lofsted, are often written in a legalistic manner that confuses, rather than helps, duty-holders. The initial phase of the review should be completed by June 2012.
  3. 3) HSE is to undertake a programme of sector-specific regulation consolidation that will reduce the number of regulations by more than 50%, without reducing protection.
  4. 4) HSE will be given the authority to direct all local authority health and safety inspection and enforcement, ensuring consistency and the targeting of the most risky businesses.
  5. Regulatory provisions that impose strict liability should be reviewed by June 2013 and either qualified with 'reasonably practicable' where strict liability is not absolutely necessary or amended to prevent civil liability attaching to a breach.

Mr Grayling also announced that the government will form a new panel, where businesses can challenge the decisions of health and safety inspectors and get them overturned immediately if they have got it wrong.
'Reclaiming health and safety for ail: An independent review of health and safety regulation' (Cm8219) is available - at £16.75, from The Stationery Office; tel: 0870 600 5522 - or online, at - pdf.

'The Government response to the Lofstedt Report' is at - pdf. Additional background information is at (DWP Information Orderline; tel: 0845 7313233: HSE Infoline; tel: 0845 345 0055).

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Make sure you regularly inspect equipment

Two construction companies must pay a total of £125,000 in fines and costs for failing to ensure that a cherry-picker, which was involved in a fatality, was safe for use. Amey Infrastructure Services Ltd and Mouchel Parkman Services Ltd were working as a joint venture to carry out maintenance work on the A5036 Princess Way, in Seaforth. A team of six workers were cleaning and replacing the lights on the central reservation when the incident took place on 20 August 2006.

Peter Cole, 61, was employed by Amey Infrastructure Services and was part of the maintenance team working on the dual carriageway. He had repaired one of the lights from inside the basket of a cherry-picker when, as he was being lowered, the vehicle’s lifting arm collapsed. He fell eight metres and landed on the back of the vehicle. He was taken to hospital but died from his injuries the next day.

The HSE’s investigation learned that the cherry-picker, which was one of three identical vehicles rented from Highland Access Ltd, was nine years old and had a lengthy maintenance record. The joint on the cherry-picker’s arm had progressively degraded as a result of exposure to the elements, and, consequently, it could not cope with the force exerted when lowering Mr Cole.

Inspectors also found that Amey Infrastructure Services and Mouchel Parkman Services had a system in place that required the vehicles to be inspected daily, but these checks weren’t consistently carried out.
During inspections of the two other hired cherry-pickers, the HSE found faults with the emergency stop mechanism on both vehicles. As a result, both companies were issued with two Prohibition Notices, which required both vehicles to be taken out of service until they were repaired.

HSE inspector Dave Guyers told SHP that both companies should either have ensured that newer cherry-pickers were used, or made sure that regular safety checks on the existing hire vehicles were carried out continuously. He said: “Both companies had a legal duty to ensure Mr Cole remained safe but their checking and maintenance systems were inadequate, and thus allowed him to use a cherry-picker that was in a poor condition.

“Heavy usage and a regular repair record demand that checking and maintenance procedures are carried out thoroughly. This is vital with cherry-pickers, which place users at great risk when working at height.”

Amey Infrastructure Services appeared at Liverpool Crown Court on 1 December and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £32,500 in costs. Mouchel Parkman Services appeared at the same hearing and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was ordered to pay the same level in fines and costs. In mitigation, both firms said they had cooperated with the investigation and have subsequently hired new equipment, ensuring that daily checks are carried out on the vehicles.

After the hearing, a spokesperson for Amey Infrastructure Services said: “This case arises out of an accident that occurred over five and a half years ago. The judge noted that none of the acts, or omissions were in any way causative of the death of Mr Peter Cole.” The HSE also brought charges against Highland Access Ltd but the company went into liquidation in July and the case is no longer being pursued.

Source: SHP