A change in regulation should see far fewer civil claims on health and safety grounds

Some good news for our clients, section 69 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 has been in place for several months now, since October 1st 2013 in fact. A small but significant change introduced as part of the Act now makes it impossible for civil litigants to bring actions against their employer for a breach of duty under the regulations.

What does this mean to you?

In simple terms there we previously two routes to making a claim:

  1. the injured party could assert that either the employer was negligent in their actions or arrangements, or;
  2. they could argue that their employer hadn’t complied with health and safety regulation (often the easier route to a claim).

Now there is only the first option which is good news for employers.  This change will make it more difficult for claims to be successful as claimants can no longer simply rely on a technical breach of health and safety law. They will have to prove that the employer did not take “reasonable care” and prove that lack of care led to their injury, damage or loss.

Whilst it is going to take some time before we see any reduction in terms of litigation or insurance premiums this remains good news for all of our clients and another nail in the coffin of No Win No Fee actions and the compensation culture which this encourages.

The amendments are likely to reduce civil claims and will make employers feel less exposed to the risk of a claim. But don’t forget that claims are still both possible and are likely to continue to some time yet, particularly those which relates to incidents which occurred before the changes we made (01/10/2013).

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

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Bristol City Council prosecuted after worker was thrown from tractor

Safety failings led Bristol City Council being fined after a park keeper suffered serious injuries when she was thrown from a tractor as it overturned.

The 51 year-old worker, broke her pelvis and badly damaged an Achilles tendon in the incident occurred in Netham Park, Bristol on 30 May 2012. Her injuries led to her remaining off work for a year but has since returned and is now employed as an office worker.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation led to a prosecution yesterday (15 Jan) of Bristol City Council at the city’s Magistrates’ Court.

The court was told that the park keeper, who was carrying out maintenance work, was driving the tractor with a trailer attached and had braked as the tractor descended a slope. The vehicle began to skid and the driver turned to avoid a fence but it overturned, throwing her from the seat.

The tractor was not fitted with a seat belt or any type of restraint and the Council had failed to ensure their employee had received adequate training on the use of the tractor the HSE discovered.

The nearly new tractor and trailer had been acquired by Bristol City Council shortly before the incident but not within the normal procurement procedures and no supplier training was provided as a result, the investigation also revealed.

Bristol City Council was fined a total of £20,000 and ordered to pay £4,700 in costs after admitting two breaches of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Kate Leftly, said:

“This incident was entirely preventable and has caused the worker considerable suffering and distress. She had trained three years for her park keeper role but is now office-bound and will need further surgery on the tendon requiring a 12-18 month recovery”.

“Every year, there are accidents involving transport in the workplace, some of which result in people being injured or even killed. People fall from vehicles, are knocked down, run over, or crushed against fixed parts, plant and trailers”.

“Bristol City Council had inadequate systems in place to ensure operators were suitably trained in the use of this equipment and failed to identify the need for a suitable seat restraint.”

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

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Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 40th Anniversary

Some huge changes have taken place in the past 40 years in terms of industry and the service sector.  Our economy has grown and changed from one based on manufacturing to one more aligned to high-tech and the service / financial sectors.  Through all of this the Health and Safety at Work Act has continued to apply to a very changed world.

What has helped in this is the way in which it is structured.  The Robens report changed legislation from being industry and item specific into a goal setting type of legislation which put the emphasis back at the door of the businesses managing risk.

You can see this as a blessing or a curse but the fact is that by doing this the Act enables us to implement safety in a way which works with our businesses.  Wait – I can feel a huge groan in the background!  Don’t be too hard on the Act itself or the HSE or others who enforce it.  What needs to change is not the Act itself but what has built up around it; no win no fee cases and ambulance chasers.  Without these influences we are free to implement common sense – so on the 40th anniversary of the Act lets all work together to do what everyone actually wants.  Reasonable measure to make sure everyone goes home safe today an every day.

Read on below for the HSE press release.

This year mark 40 years since Health and Safety at Work Act received Royal Assent. Arguably it is one of the best pieces of legislation on the statute books – although we know it is often misunderstood and misinterpreted. It has protected millions of British workers, and driven sharp reductions in incidents of occupational death, serious injury and ill health.

In 1974, fatalities to employees covered by the legislation in place then stood at 651. The latest figure for 2012/13 was down to 148 for employees and self-employed combined. The actual reduction is probably more than this as data for sectors not covered by health and safety law pre 1974 was not collected. In the same time frame (and with the same caveat) non-fatal injuries have dropped by more than 75 percent. There is still room for improvement clearly, but the change in the last 40 years is quite remarkable.

Before the 1974 Act there was a host of different regulations – some industries swamped with prescriptive rules and others with little or no regulation at all. Something needed to be done.

The 1972 Robens Report concluded there were too many regulations and that what was needed was a regulatory regime that set broad, non-prescriptive goals for dutyholders, underpinned by a fundamental principle: ‘those that create risk are best placed to manage it’.

The Act that emerged from his review swept away detailed and prescriptive industry regulations; it created a flexible system where regulations describe goals and principles, supported by codes of practice and guidance. Based on consultation and engagement, the new regime was designed to deliver a proportionate, targeted and risk-based approach.

Forty years on this approach still applies. Despite having diversified away from an economy based predominantly on heavy industry and manufacturing, much of the original vision and framework of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 remains relevant. The principles have been applied time and again to new and emerging technologies and sectors. The legacy is a safety record envied around the world.

Much of the current reform agenda is aimed at: stripping out unnecessary or duplicated regulation and helping smaller businesses to understand how to take a proportionate approach to managing their risks – but the basic principles remain the same.

Forty years on the Health and Safety at Work Act has demonstrated it can be applied to new responsibilities and new demands, creating the framework for people to come home safe and well from a day’s work in any sector of the economy.

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

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Jewson Limited fined £14,000 for selling unsafe hard hats in Northampton branch

Builders’ merchants Jewson Limited has been fined £14,000 for selling hard hats which failed to meet safety standards.

Jewson Limited appeared at Northampton Magistrates Court on Monday after an investigation by Northamptonshire County Council.

The hard hats failed a test against Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002 by trading standards officers in a proactive survey in January, 2012.

This included a Jewson Safety Helmet purchased from the Jewson premise in Pilot Road, Corby which did not comply with the shock absorption test in EN 397.

A further six helmets were purchased from Jewsons at St James Mill Road, Northampton and three of these also failed the same test.

Jewson Limited were informed of the results and advised that they had withdrawn the product from sale but another helmet was purchased from their Northampton branch when a sales assistant overrode the withdrawn from sale notification on the till.

This helmet was also tested and found to pass the shock absorption test.

The helmets stated “complies with : EN397” and had been imported from China by the company.

Jewson were only able to produce a test certificate from 2001 despite selling over 63,000 of them over an 11 year period.

Councillor Andre Gonzalez de Savage, county council cabinet member for strategic infrastructure, economic growth and public protection said: “I’m pleased that Trading Standards have investigated and prosecuted this case.

“It is impossible for users to detect this kind of issue for themselves and therefore it is vital that our officers proactively monitor the safety of products on sale.

“All manufacturers and importers need to carry out regular testing to ensure their products meet safety standards.

“We are always willing to work with our county businesses to ensure that they are fully compliant with applicable regulations and safety codes. We firmly believe in being proactive and supporting our communities”

Magistrates fined the Coventry-based business £2,500 on each of four offences and £4,000 for the latter offence. Costs of £7,500 were awarded to trading standards.

Anyone with concerns about the safety of products can inform Trading Standards by contacting the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 040506.

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

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Safety transport of loads on vehicles, including MEWPs

The safety of loads on vehicles is something which many of our clients, outside of the logistics sector, have a fairly limited knowledge of.  Because of this unfamiliarity this is a risk area which often goes without assessment or challenge but is one which can cause accidents with serious consequences, read on t find out how to assess and manage your risks.

Securing loads on vehicles – good practice

When loads are being transported they must be secured at all times to the vehicle they are being transported on. It is the driver’s and company’s responsibility to ensure that this is carried out safely.

The basic principle is that the combined strength of the vehicle’s load restraint systems must be sufficient to withstand a force not less than the total weight of the load in a forwards direction and half the weight in a backwards and sideways direction. Please do bear in mind that this does not take into account a road traffic accident where the forces generated are much higher than in normal transportation.

Lateral and longitudinal forces are generated on the load when the vehicle accelerates, brakes, corners and travels over uneven terrain. Once the vehicle is in motion, loads can move in any direction even if the journey is a short one.

The Code of Practice, Safety of Loads on Vehicles states that:

When securing an item of plant or machinery for transport there should NEVER be less than four anchorage points used.

The restraining system should be arranged so that failure or slackening of a single component does not render the remainder of the system ineffective.

This means that if, for example, two chains are used to secure a load (one front and one rear) four anchorage points are achieved however if one chain fails two anchorage points are lost and load security is compromised.

We would strongly suggest that loads transported on your vehicles are secured with at least four separate restraints at all times – irrespective of the size, shape or weight of the load.

With this procedure in place if a chain, hook, strap, binder or ratchet experiences a failure of loosening there are still three other restraints securing the load in a forwards, backwards and sideways direction.

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

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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.

 

All time low for major injuries in the workplace

The downward trend in accident statistics looks set to continue with an 11 per cent drop in major injuries in the workplace according to new figures published by the HSE.

The provisional statistics show that in Britain between April 2012 and March 2013:
  1. 19,707 major injuries, including amputations, fractures and burns, were reported (a rate of 78.5 injuries per 100,000 employees) compared with 22,094 in 2011/12 (a rate of 88.5 per 100,000);
  2. 148 workers were fatally injured. This is down from 171 the previous year, and the average for the past five years was 181 worker deaths a year; and
  3. workplace injuries and ill-health (excluding work-related cancer) cost society an estimated £13.8 billion in 2010/11 compared with £16.3 billion in 2006/07 – both in 2011 prices.
Judith Hackitt, chair of the HSE, said:
“Britain continues to improve its health and safety performance, with important falls in the number of workers fatally injured and the number of employees suffering major injuries.
“But we still see too many deaths and injuries occur in the workplace, many of which could have been prevented through simple safety measures. Getting this right is the key to ensuring that everyone can make it home safely at the end of the working day.”
The figures show that although major injuries have hit an all time low, there has been little change in the industries like construction, agriculture, and waste and recycling, where workers are most likely to be injured by their jobs.
In 2012/13, the construction industry recorded 1,913 major injuries (156 per 100,000 employees), compared to 2,124 in 2011/12 (171.8 per 100,000 employees).
The HSE added that in 2010 – the most recent year for which statistic are available across the EU – the standardised rate of work-related fatal injuries, excluding traffic accidents, was 0.71 per 100,000 workers in Great Britain, the third lowest in the EU.

Over one third of London’s basement construction projects fail HSE safety inspections

A recent two day clamp down on these types of projects has revealed significant and repeated failures but specialist building contractors to properly assess and control risk in these types of projects.  Basement construction has become extremely popular in many London Boroughs over the past 3-5 years so those engaging in basement conversion projects can expect much more attention from HSE in the coming months.
If you wish to protect yourself and your business against FFI costs please talk to us about our indemnity scheme and support packages.

Basement conversions in London fall well below safety standards

Over a third of domestic basement projects in three London boroughs failed unannounced safety checks during a two-day clampdown, according to figures from the HSE.
During the inspection initiative in November a team of HSE inspectors visited 107 sites across Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, and Westminster.
The initiative revealed that enforcement action was taken at 36 of those sites [an overall rate of 34%] with 41 prohibition notices served requiring dangerous practices to stop with immediate effect, and 21 improvement notices served requiring safety improvements to be made.
According to the HSE, the majority of the prohibition notices related to unsafe work at height, with dangerous excavations also an area of concern. It is worthy of note that inadequate welfare provision accounted for three quarters of the improvement notices.
The HSE’s lead inspector for the initiative believed that some progress is being made despite the evidence that there is still cause for concern.
Commenting on the results, Andrew Beal, principal inspector for the HSE’s construction division in the city and south west London, said:
“The overall picture is on a par with other targeted inspections of basement work, and we also identified the same kind of problems relating to unsafe work at height and excavations and poor welfare facilities.
“That suggests the message isn’t getting through, or that there is complacency towards health and safety across this sector of the construction industry. But that isn’t necessarily the case.”
The HSE stated that the results show that contractors who have previously engaged with the HSE in activity of this kind have made improvements – with the poorest standards identified generally among firms who were previously unknown to inspectors.

“This illustrates that lessons have been learned, and we hope the latest failings that required action will have a similar impact,” Mr Beal added.

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

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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.