Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (HSE 07)

  Founded in 1883, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) is an independent professional and education body representing those who work in environmental health and related disciplines. It is dedicated to the promotion of environmental health and to encouraging the highest possible standards in the training and the work of environmental health professionals.

  The Chartered Institute represents a professional environmental health membership of 9,000 people, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The majority of its members work for local authorities and many of these are authorised as inspectors under the Health & Safety at work etc Act 1974 and enforce health and safety legislation in service, retail and service sectors of employment. Others work in central government, industry, the armed forces, academia, as independent consultants and overseas.

  During 1997-98, 6,400 local authority inspectors, many of whom have combined health and safety duties with other public protection work, carried out 356,000 health and safety visits to commercial premises and served 4,510 formal notices requiring action. A total of 35,000 workplace injuries were reported to local authorities in the same year.

  An important role of the Chartered Institute is to campaign for improvements in public health and to facilitate debate about the environmental challenges that affect our health. Active in technical policy and educational development, the Chartered Institute communicates the views of the profession to governmental, professional, and international organisations including the European Union and the United Nations.

  In 1993 the Chartered Institute became the World Health Organisation (EURO) Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health Management.


  1.1  The Chartered Institute represents a professional environmental health membership of 9,000 people in England and Wales. Over 6,000 of these are authorised as inspectors under the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 although the majority combine this work with other public protection work.

  1.2  The Chartered Institute is responsible for ensuring high standards in the education and professional development of its members. The Education Unit accredits professional courses, assists members with training enquiries and administers the Environmental Health Officers' Registration Board (EHORB), the accrediting body for qualifications in the profession.

  1.3  Before becoming an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) a student must satisfactorily complete an accredited BSc degree course in Environmental Health and register with the Environmental Health Officers Registration Board. This involves both academic study and practical training. It is a requirement of the registration board that the student understands the impact of work activities on the health, safety and welfare of people and be familiar with; and be able to apply control mechanisms and strategies to ensure that the risk to peoples' health and safety from work activities are properly controlled. The qualification is based on the attainment of competency in this area of work.

  1.4  Local Authorities employ a variety of staff who may not be qualified as EHOs. The Chartered Institute is developing an "Advanced Certificate in Health and Safety Inspection" aimed at local authority enforcement officers, who are not EHOs, but wish to develop the competencies currently met by EHOs as set out in guidance issued by the Health and Safety Commission under section 18 of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSW Act).


  2.1  Local authority enforcement officers are appointed as inspectors under the HSW Act as are inspectors employed by the HSE. They enforce the same legislation as HSE inspectors but in different premises as prescribed by Health and Safety (Enforcement Authority) Regulations 1998. These premises include offices, shops, warehouses, hotels, restaurants, places of enterainment, consumer services, churches, residential care homes and the service sector etc.

  2.2  Local authorities have played a major part in the success of the HSW Act to date. They are currently responsible for 1.2 million premises, 10 million employees, and over 50 million members of the public potentially affected by work activity. Some of the biggest labour market changes impact on the local authority enforced sector, a broad based services sector, including substantial leisure activities, which has been growing steadily at the expense of manufacturing.

  2.3  This growth sector is characterised by:

    —  Small and micro firms. Two thirds of all firms with less than 50 employees are in the Local Authority enforced sector;

    —  A growth in non-conventional employment: peripatetic workers, part-time and home working;

    —  The emergency of complete new industries such as call centres.

  2.4  Local Authority and HSE inspectors also face new workplace health and safety issues which parallel wider societal and life-style issues such as stress, sick building syndrome, smoking (active and passive), violence and bullying, upper limb disorders. Many of these are encountered in the office and service sectors of employment.

  2.4  The Chartered Institute therefore believes that it is essential that the HSE and Local Authorities work in partnership and maximise their collective contribution. It is also essential that the liaison between the HSE and local authorities is effective.


  3.1  The HSE Local Authority Unit (LAU) is a free standing Division within the HSE and sits at the heart of the partnership between the HSE and local authorities in securing the Health and Safety Commission's (HSC) objectives. In conjunction with the Local Government Associations it has general policy responsibility for local authority enforcement matters. It offers advice to LAs and co-ordinates information and data relating to the LA's enforcement role. Local Authorities therefore very much depend on the LAU for information, guidance and advice to ensure consistency, proportionality, transparency and targeting on a risk related basis. The Chartered Institute will continue to support the LAU in this important role and looks to the Government to ensure that the Division is adequately funded.

  3.2  The Health and Safety Executive/Local Authority Enforcement Liaison Committee (HELA) comprises of representatives of the HSE and local authority associations and is jointly chaired by the Deputy Director General of the HSE and a senior Director from a local authority. HELA aims to promote a consistent approach between the HSE and LAs, promote good enforcement practice by developing and disseminating guidance to local authorities, promote and support local authority health and safety enforcement training, collate and report details of local authority enforcement activity and encourage consistency of enforcement. HELA operates through a main committee and ad hoc working groups. The Chartered Institute is invited to the HELA Technical Sub-Committee.

  3.3  The Chartered Institute supports HELA by disseminating information and promulgating key features of its current strategy in publications and training seminars. The Chartered Institute holds the view that HELA is not totally transparent. It regrets that it does not have observer status on the main HELA Committee.


  4.1  Local Authority inspectors liaise locally with HSE Enforcement Liaison Officers (ELOs) who are normally principal inspectors. The ELOs provide assistance in respect of technical enquiries and play a part in resolving problems of demarcation. Effective liaison between the HSE and local authorities is essential at local level. Resources allocated to local authority liaison by HSE Area Directors varies from region to region. The Chartered Institute believes that these resources should be maximised and that the resources allocated by Area Directors for liaison with local authorities should be fully utilised in every case.


  5.1  The Chartered Institute's Health & Safety Committee funds a Health & Safety Co-ordinating Group (HASCOG) which consists of members representing all of the County Health & Safety Groups throughout England and Wales. The groups, of which there are 47, are either set up under the auspices of the Chartered Institute or report direct to Chief Officer's within their County. HASCOG meets four times a year to discuss technical issues and to resolve common problems. The HSE LAU is represented at these meetings thus enabling the County Groups to liaise direct with the LAU and feed back information to the County Groups they represent. The Chartered Institute welcomes this representation.


  6.1  The Environmental Health Electronic Communications Network (EHCnet) supports environmental health officers throughout the UK with a fast private communications link with their peers in hundreds of other local authorities, and gives them access to a wealth of professionally vital information. A message can be sent to all environmental health users (including 391 local authorities who subscribe to the network). This year the Chartered Institute granted the HSE LAU free access to EHCnet enabling it to liaise with LAs quickly and effectively. The Chartered Institute is currently discussing with the HSE how technical manuals etc can be transmitted and updated by way of the network. The Chartered Institute considers this to be an important development in communication between the HSE and LAs.


  7.1  In recent years local authority representation on HSE liaison groups has been somewhat sparse. However, representation on technical and policy groups is growing and there is now more joint development and testing of good practice a development which the Chartered Institute strongly supports.


  8.1  The profile of health and safety enforcement in LAs has been the concern of the Chartered Institute for some time. Resources within local authorities environmental health departments are subject to a number of pressures in particular the enforcement of food safety legislation. HELA reports a 10 per cent drop in enforcement officer numbers in 1997-98 which is of particular concern to the Chartered Institute which questions whether this is a proper re-balancing to reflect risks, or a knee jerk response to public concerns. The Chartered Institute believes that the HSE LAU and HELA should take every opportunity to persuade local authorities to redress this fall.


  9.1  The relationship between the HSE and LAs has improved over recent years and the Chartered Institute looks to both parties to continue with this improved dialogue. It must be recognised that the LAs are not simply a bolt-on enforcement network. There is no room for a gulf between the LAs and the HSE when expectations demand a continued central role for LAs which includes:

    —  Partnership, engaging with others, participation, equality of access and minimisation of social exclusion;

    —  Local delivery of quality services clearly focused on the customer;

    —  The need to tackle more successfully the needs of a diverse and numerous small business sector; and

    —  Emergence of "new" health and safety challenges which are, in effect, part of a wider social issues and government agenda.

September 1999

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Prepared 26 October 1999