Monthly Archives: May 2013

May 31, 2013 In Uncategorised No Comments

Directors guide to safety (protecting you and your business from Corporate Manslaughter)

In our recent post we spoke about the way in which the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act was being used against smaller business almost exclusively.  We also discussed how the weaknesses present within the Act, in particular the need to  identify a controlling mind within the business to hold at fault, made its application against large businesses unlikely to succeed.

This leaves us with the question of what should Directors be doing to safe guard themselves and their businesses from prosecution, something which deserves a review on this blog so here goes!

The basis of any defence will be to provide evidence that you are  in fact a reasonable person and a good employer who takes the safety of their staff seriously.  To be prosecuted under the act you must have fallen well below the level which could be expected of you – a gross failure or breach of duty.

Some good information has recently been issued by HSE and the Institute of Directors; read more here; http://www.hse.gov.uk/leadership/index.htm.

We can break down the base requirements for any business into three main sections;

  1. The role of the Board; the structure of meetings, integration of safety data and KPI’s
  2. The actions of individual Directors;
  3. Checks and audits which should be carried out on the company arrangements for health and safety.

The Role of the Board

It has long been a recommendation that the Board should appoint one member with the responsibility and skills to serve as the Director responsible for safety.  This isn’t to say that it is compulsory but it is something which we would recommend to all of our clients.

This isn’t to say that this Director is now culpable for any mistakes which the Board or company makes as it still remains a joint responsibility and any Director could be held to account.  Make sure that your policy details both the roles of the board as a whole and the directors within it.

Next, make sure that your board meetings effectively address health and safety issues and make it the first item on the agenda.  It doesn’t have to dominate but the salient points of current issues should be covered, think of training budgets, audits, OHSAS 18000 approvals and so on.

Notes;

  • include safety as the first item on each meeting
  • consider reports on performance including accidents, near misses, ill health and the outcomes of inspections or audits internal or by safety consultants
  • consider new legislation and its impact on the business
  • clearly state what you expect of Directors in the safety policy document
  • Consider safety when making linked decisions to purchase new equipment or buy new businesses

Individual Directors

It stands to reason that a director should have a reasonable level of understanding in order to make the right decisions, indeed this is often a critical point in protecting your business.  Specific courses exist such as IOSH Directing Safely and these should be considered as a minimum for the Safety Director and as a good investment for any Director serving on the Board.

What isn’t reasonable is to expect that Director to keep up to date with all new and changing regulation which could affect the business, that’s best left to your safety consultants or other support and perhaps once a year an update from them would be worthwhile.

Checks and measures

Finally, make sure you have some feedback from the rest of the Board and from the business at large.  Recent cases have highlighted that a Director cannot use the excuse of simply not knowing what was occurring on the ground within the business – they must make it their job to know or pay the price – is this something which you feel confident of?

Make sure that you walk the walk on safety, take actions when you see something wrong, stop a person doing something which you think could be done more safely and you’ll send a strong message to the rest of your team.

When you or your team visit sites make time to assess how things are progressing in terms of safety as well as general progress and make interventions to ensure your staff know that safety is a key part of the requirement to get things done.

Feedback

When everything above is in place revisit your communication and seek to improve it.  You might be responsible for the whole business but you can’t be everywhere at once.  Use a safety committee or similar to make sure that risk management is integral to the business and populate it with a broad mix of positions and personalities – you’ll be surprised at what you can gain from this and the feedback you’ll gain.

Action list:

  1. Check your contractors are working safely and have adequate insurance;
  2. Check your staff training matrix is up to date;
  3. Check your insurance remains appropriate, adequate and valid;
  4. Make sure that all statutory and periodic tests are in date;
  5. Sets some targets for improvements in terms of accidents and lost time injuries.
May 14, 2013 In Uncategorised No Comments

Contractor questionnaires – a sledgehammer to crack a nut?

SSIPIf there is one item guaranteed to raise a few eyebrows and the blood pressure of our clients its contractor approval schemes, contractor questionnaires and PQQ’s (Pre Qualification Questionnaires).

All of the above are treated with equal dislike by most trades which we support, be they solar installers, renewables, groundworkers, electricians, building services engineers or landscapers.

There is a scheme known as SSIP (Safety Schemes in Procurement) which seeks to address some of these concerns but, despite a positive start, the level of co-operation and integration between the schemes partners does still leave a lot to be desired.  Some have taken the baton and put in place a good and fair system without high charges and with assessors who are willing to talk to you (well done SMAS).  At the other extreme there are high costs, outsourced assessors who are rarely available, little understanding of the processes our clients use and a less than helpful attitude (you know who you are…).

In an attempt to combat this the British Standards Institute (BSI) brought out PAS91 a few years ago and the intention was good and the reception positive.  PAS91 is already in use by all central government procurement agencies and has the support of SSIP, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, SafeContractor and EXOR – all of the largest suppliers in contractor assessment.

There’s just one big problem; PAS 91 is 47 pages long including guidance material and many of its questions are more probing and arduous than the very questionnaires it was going to replace… oh well, back to the drawing board!

If you need help or advice on health and safety or assistance in getting approved on EXOR, Safety Contractor, Constructionline, CHAS or SMAS then please use the links below to contact us or request a call back – or call and speak to a friendly expert on 01453 800100. We can have you SSIP approved in as little as 3 days and will prepare all paperwork on your behalf writing new policies and procedures wherever they are required.

May 14, 2013 In Uncategorised No Comments

HSE planned revision to ACoPs (Approved Codes of Practice) will you be affected?

HSE has now confirmed that the ACoP which supports the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 will be removed along with an overhaul of many other ACoPs.

ACoPs are acknowledged to set the benchmark against which HSE judges the provisions made by industry and so have been very useful in the past serving as both a minimum standard and an example of turning legislation into practice.

However, all is not lost. The lost ACoP will be replaced by a new suite of guidance documents including the Health and Safety Made Simple Toolkit and the Health and Safety Toolbox, both of which are present already on the HSE website.

We can also look forward to seeing a new guidance document as the updated HSG65 – ‘Successful Health and Safety Management’ looks likely to be produced sometime late this summer.

So the answer to the question is yes, you are likely to be affected by this change, however, the new guidance promises to be more detailed and explicit in its content.  Expect to see samples of documents, risk assessments and similar documents, so although this is a change, it might just be a positive one.

Note: In addition to the above we can expect to see a simplification of the existing 5 documents covering the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 as they are planned to be consolidated into a single document aiding their application, simplicity and, perhaps, their enforcement.

If you need help or advice on health and safety please use the links below to contact us or request a call back – or call and speak to a friendly expert on 01453 800100

May 14, 2013 In Uncategorised No Comments

Construction sites blitzed by HSE as Fee For Intervention (FFI) continues to bite smaller contractors, trades and installers

Linked to our recent article on Fee for Intervention (FFI) we have heard that the HSE have been very active again on construction sites, particularly in the London region.

In all nearly 2,500 sites were visited and almost all of these were where refurbishment or repair works were in progress.

A total of 631 enforcement notices were served, 451 of which were prohibition notices  demanding that work be stopped immediately and until corrective action was taken. How many thousands of pounds were issues in fines under FFI remains unknown but given HSE’s slow start on the total of £37 million for the current period we would expect this to be in the tens of thousands.

High-risk activities, such as work at height, excavations, removal of asbestos, and so on plus site equipment, including its installation, assembly and maintenance arrangements will be checked on. One surprise addition was the issue and management of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) something which doesn’t always figure highly in an inspection but perhaps a pointer for the future as targets loom and need to be hit on FFI.

If you have a project running and would like to discuss how to best protect yourself against fee for intervention please contact us.  Similarly, if you have already been hit with a FFI fine and wish to appeal please contact one of our experts to assist you in the process.  Use the contact methods above or call us on 01453 800100.

If you need help or advice on health and safety please use the links belowto contact us or request a call back – or call and speak to a friendly expert on 01453 800100

Designers receive guidance on best practice for minimising risk from working at height

A new British standard provides key guidance for architects and others involved in design and the CDM process for minimising and controlling residual risk for work at height.

Working at height remains the biggest killer in the UK workplace and for that reason anything which helps to address the risks and remove them at the design stage must be a positive step worth supporting.

If you have the opportunity to attend we are involved in organising an event focusing on controlling work at height risk through our relationship with the WWT (Working Well Together campaign) our MD, Roger Hart is Treasurer of the South West WWT, book your place here; Work at height event, 3rd July 2013

Whilst its true to say that the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 already require that work at height risks are designed out at the planning stage, it cannot be said to have always worked in practice.

Although we accept that the demands of clients and aesthetics must be met, further measures are justified and we hope that the publication of a new British Standard will help; BS 8560:2012 Code of Practice for the Design of Buildings Incorporating Safe Work at Height.

The Code of Practice addresses the basic hierarchies of design ideas, ranked from most to least desirable, plus summary information about the constraints and limitations of various practical solutions such as a lamp requiring replacement.  In this case, access by Mobile Elevating Work Platforms (scissor or booms) is addressed with reminders to design in adequate access routes for the equipment and ensure the installed flooring can withstand their considerable weight.

Using the guide designers must consider; “the extent, nature, duration and frequency of work to be done at height, so that appropriate equipment and techniques for use in construction, cleaning, maintenance and repair can be identified”. This must also be done at an early stage enabling conflicts between proposed equipment or work methods and other factors are more easily resolved.

Design teams are encouraged to seek input from the client’s facilities manager and others such as the construction contractor at the planning stage. Something which was always present within the CDM Regulations and which a good CDM Coordinator should try to ensure but an element which is still missing from too many projects.

If you have a project which requires a CDM Coordinator please use the request proposal or call back links above to speak directly with an experience CDMC or call us on 01453 800100

Contact form

Please complete the form below and we promise to respond within 24 hrs. If you need more urgent help just call 01453 800109 and ask for Andrea.

Posted by Roger Hart
May 14, 2013 In Uncategorised No Comments

Inadequate provision for welfare on construction site leads to prosecution and fine

Welfare has been an issue very close to the heart of HSE for a number of years and with good reason.  A worker on a construction site should be able to expect a reasonable standard of welfare provision.  When this comes to exposure to the substances used this becomes even more important and there is a tendency amongst staff to be dismissive of the requirements despite the nature of concrete being quite hazardous – burns from concrete can be severe and not felt at the time of exposure.

Despite this, a builder from Cornwall has been convicted of neglecting the welfare of his workers to such an extent that he did not even provide them basic facilities, such as water to drink or wash in.

poor welfareDavid Lawrance, a partner for Swiftfix Reinforcement Specialists, failed to provide adequate washing facilities and rest areas at a construction site in Carbis Bay, West Cornwall where a new home was being built between May and July 2012.

An HSE inspector visited the site and found there was neither hot nor cold running water, nor even a basin in which to wash – even though the workers had been pouring concrete. There was no suitable water supply available to the workers, they had to make do with a hose running from a neighbouring property into a plastic container for drinking.

In addition the inspector also found that there was no adequate area for resting, drying clothes or eating. Although there was a small portable office with enough room for three chairs, there were eight workmen on site, plus the office had no electricity supply.

Following this an Improvement Notice was served requiring the builder to offer his workers better conditions, a follow-up HSE inspection revealed that nothing had changed.

David Lawrance, of Rosudgeon, near Penzance, pleaded guilty to breaching reg.13(7) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 by failing to provide suitable welfare facilities, such as sanitary conveniences, washing facilities, drinking water, changing rooms and lockers, and facilities for rest. He was given a two-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay costs of £2,141.00

HSE inspector Barry Trudgian commented:

“The need to provide running water for washing hands and arms is not a trivial matter on a building site.

“The workmen were pouring concrete and, when splashed on the skin, this can lead to dermatitis if it is not washed off. Apart from being an unpleasant condition, in some cases it can lead to the loss of use of fingers and hands.

“Site contractors and supervisors like David Lawrance, who are responsible for the work of employees or sub-contractors, have a legal duty to ensure that adequate facilities are in place for the welfare of the workforce from the very start to the completion of construction work.”

If you need help or advice on health and safety please use the links below to contact us or request a call back – or call and speak to a friendly expert on 01453 800100

May 11, 2013 In Uncategorised No Comments

Large companies can’t hide forever from Corporate Manslaughter (or can they?)

We listened with interest during a recent IOSH webinar on Corporate Manslaughter / Corporate Homicide.  It feels that in the talks we run for clients at our breakfast and lunch clubs I’ve been talking about little else since the act was introduced and Cotswold Geotech faced the first prosecution.

At the time talk was of how one person / company must be first and that the legislation needed to the tested before moving on to larger game.  Something mentioned in the webinar changed this.

We have always spoken about major disasters and how, in the past, the many layers of management within the businesses responsible for Zeebrugge and Hatfield made it impossible for them to face prosecution as a ‘controlling mind’could not be found – what wasn’t so clear at that stage was that this test was never fully removed.

There are currently 141 cases opened and 56 prosecutions ongoing, almost all against very small businesses.  Further, in almost all cases the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has also charged both the company and individuals with health and safety offences under HASWA (S.37 and similar).

Given the rhetoric before the Act was introduced the current situation seems bizarre.  An Act which was written to address the imbalance between large and small businesses which retained the crucial Achilles heel of the old legislation and a new piece of legislation which does much the same job as the existing but with much higher fines (a minimum of £500,000 in fines) which can only be applied effectively against small businesses.

It leads you to question who wrote the legislation and for what purposes?  Its true to say that it has brought health and safety into sharper focus for most large businesses but in terms of their being brought to book for serious failings… well, the jury is still out.

If you need help or advice on health and safety please use the links below to contact us or request a call back – or call and speak to a friendly expert on 01453 800100

May 11, 2013 In Uncategorised No Comments

Government launches another review of HSE

It doesn’t seem like three years have passed since the governments last budget review in 2010 but that time is here again and HSE is likely to be facing further budget cuts.

I can hear readers thinking ‘why should we be worried about that?’ and its a fair question but the impacts of further reductions in the HSE budget are likely to be felt by all of us as the regulator adapts to its new role as an enforcement agency with the power to collect fines.

The relationship between those who are regulated by HSE and the executive was changed by the introduction of Fee For Intervention (FFI) last October.  It’s simply not possible to maintain this same relationship whilst charging a client £124 per hour.  Similarly, it affects the old partnerships between clients and HSE where a partnership has been established over years of careful actions building trust between regulator and regulated.

By way of example, you would have to wonder now at the logic of asking an inspector to visit with the hope of gleaning some advice and information to improve safety management.  Surely an Inspector must treat all of those regulated in the same manner, if this is true then any material breach which comes to light must then be handled under FFI, turning an innocent enquiry with the best intentions into something which will start to strip away the budget for beneficial change as the FFI charges begin.

We are aware that a great many within HSE remain uncomfortable with their new position as regulator and money collector but its no longer possible for Inspectors to resist the momentum of FFI, its become part of the working processes and targets must be reached if budgets are to be balanced and colleagues jobs secured.

Reference to our earlier post in March of this year gives the statistics on the acceleration of the FFI Scheme; HSE’s FFI Scheme starts to accelerate, refurbishment, solar PV / renewables and contracting to be hardest hit this can only continue as budgets are pared.

Beyond this, we will soon approach the anniversary of the introduction of FFI, at that point it seems very likely that the target (currently £37m each year) and the hourly chargeable rate (currently £124) will both rise.

If you need help or advice on health and safety please use the links below to contact us or request a call back – or call and speak to a friendly expert on 01453 800100

WWT Southwest Event: Snakes and Ladders

HSEFREE Working Well Together Event:  Snakes and Ladders (Considering Working at Height)

This is one of a series of free partnership events run by the industry for the industry, as part of the UK-wide Working Well Together (WWT) campaign.

This event will look at working at height – how to do it safely and the reasons why.  The vent is key to those working at height including electrical installers, building maintenance engineers, facilities management specialists, steel frame erectors, roofers, solar panel installers, renewables companies, wind turbine installers and similar.

The South West Working Well Together group are pleased to introduce keynote speaker Jason Anker.

Jason was paralysed due to an avoidable incident on a building site many years ago when he fell off an unsecured ladder. He was 24 years old. Jason speaks on the emotional perspective of why Health and Safety is not just about ticking boxes and highlights the importance of listening to key behavioural safety messages when working on site.

Jason’s story is really about being at rock bottom, having the determination to pick yourself up, change direction in life and then trying to make a difference to others. www.jasonankerlive.co.uk

Agenda  BOOK NOW!

WWT campaign reserves the right to amend this programme

REGISTRATION opens at 08.00 with TEA/COFFEE AND BACON ROLL
The start time is 08.30 and the event will be finished by approximately 12.00

  • Considering all aspects of working at height Derek Purchase, Outsource Safety Ltd
  • Safe use of harnesses and the importance of a rescue plan
  • How it all goes wrong Simon Chilcott HSE Inspector of Construction
  • COFFEE AND CAKE BREAK
  • A real life story of the devastating impact of a work place incident that should never have happened Jason Anker
  • Q & A, Summary and CLOSE

This event is free to attend and all refreshments will be provided free of charge.

If you’ve got questions or need support on safety in the industrial, contracting or construction sectors please contact us for sensible and proportionate advice on 01453 800100

Contact form

Please complete the form below and we promise to respond within 24 hrs. If you need more urgent help just call 01453 800109 and ask for Andrea.

Posted by Roger Hart
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