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What you need to know about the new 2015 health and safety legislation

27-04-2015

Photo shows a representation of JusticeIt was back in 2011 when the UK government commissioned a review of health and safety legislation by Professor Löftstedt. Despite the fact that Professor Löftstedt concluded no real modifications were required, the government tasked the Health and Safety Executive Executive (HSE) with evaluating and repealing H&S legislation and guidance by April 2015.

This has resulted in a review of over 20 H&S Approved Codes of Practice (ACOP). A key change was the cancelation of the ACOP concerning the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 in 2014. This was allegedly balanced by a review of the HSE's guide to Managing Safety (HSG65) at the end of 2013.

What does this mean? In making these variations to `simplify' guidance and ACOPs, some of the changes have caused a loss in information and practical interpretation of how H&S legislation should be applied. Thus, this could be considered as a regressive step.

Another consideration is the increasing use of direct acting European Legislation. This means that the legislation applies in member countries of the EU without the country having to pass their own laws. An example of this is the Classification Labelling Packaging (CLP) Regulations, which comes fully into effect in June 2015 and substitutes the UK's Chemical (Hazard Information and Packaging) Regulations 2009 (CHIP).

Finally, in 2013, the strict liability link to H&S legislation where a worker is claiming for compensation was removed. This will have a continuing major effect on the ability for successful claims from workers in coming years, although there is no doubt companies will feel more protected from claims. The Government will argue good for business, but is it good for H&S?   

According to Bryan Richards, Chartered Safety & Health Practitioner at Arinite, there are both positive and negative points in these changes, listed below:

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM Regs)

The consultative document for these regulations resulted in a large response from industries, where 50% commented that the Regulations should not be changed. Despite these contrary comments, the unchanged Regulations came into force on 6th April 2015. The main concern was the exclusion of the role of CDM Coordinator and passing the obligations on to the Principle designer (Architect).

This may have a damaging impact on the management of safety and health risks during construction projects.

Review of ISO 14001 - Environmental Management systems

The international ISO 14001 standard clarifies how to put an effective environmental management system in place and it is proposed to assist organizations remain commercially successful, without ignoring critical environmental responsibilities.

All ISO standards are reviewed every five years to establish if a revision is essential to keep them current and relevant for the marketplace. The future environmental management system standard, ISO 14001:2015, will respond to latest trends and ensure it is compatible with other management system standards such as ISO 9001 by incorporating a new High Level Structure (HLS) for Management System Standards (MSS).

Nonetheless, from an H&S perspective, the occupational health and safety management system standard, ISO 45001 (the replacement for BS OHSAS 18001), is also under development with an intended release date of October 2016.

The HLS means that both the upcoming environmental and health and safety (EHS) standards will follow the same overall structure. This will contain a condition to understand the organisation’s context (e.g. the environment in which it operates, including its supply chain and local communities) in order to better manage risk, with more emphasis made on leaders within organisations to promote EHS management.

H&S Sentencing Guidelines

This is really aimed at the larger organisations, where large H&S fines do not essentially harm where there are huge turnovers and profits. Of course, the aim should be to create a greater deterrent for larger organisations so that they put in place good H&S management systems.

The problem occurring is that greater punishment for failings is not as powerful as providing rewards for doing things well. Rewarding positive actions would be a better approach for all. For instance, tax incentives and /or reduced insurance premiums for demonstrating good H&S management would be novel.  

In summary, Bryan Richards said that “this Government's intention to unravel H&S bureaucracy, could yet have a negative impact on managing workplace health and safety risks.” Professor Löftstedt concluded that there had been a tenfold reduction in workplace fatality rates in the UK throughout the period of modern H&S law over the last 40 years.

Additionally, Richards concluded that “the law has done a good job in protecting workers and improving the UK’s workplace H&S track record to one of the best in the world. Is that therefore something to tinker with?”

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