Memorandum by the Chemical Industries
Association (HSE 11)|
The chemical industry has a major interface
with HSE and we have developed a good working relationship in
In general, we are satisfied with the existing
HSC/E methods of operation and the tripartite structure of HSC.
We believe that current procedures work well, though there are
opportunities for improvement and development.
The UK record on occupational safety performance
is among the best in Europe; further improvement will require
a combination of approaches. We fully support the increased efforts
by HSE to reduce occupational illness.
CIA strongly opposed the introduction of charges
for COMAH-related authorisation and inspection activities, but
the Government was determined to go ahead with this. We now aim
to be represented on the industry liaison forum on charging to
ensure that the charging regime is fair to our member companies.
We have some concerns about possible moves by
HSE to demonstrate that it is a tough regulator. We recognise
that HSE has to respond to political pressure on this, but there
are dangers that, if clumsily handled, it could prejudice constructive
relationships with operators.
We support the continued existence of HSC as
an independent, tripartite body.
The status of HSC as an independent statutory
body provides a helpful separation of health and safety issues
from both central Government and employers. We also believe that
the separation of the Commission from the Executive arm is beneficial,
in the same way that the Board of Directors of a company is separate
from the day-to-day operations.
The tripartite structure is important because
it brings consensus on health and safety issues so that policy
is commonly owned; this encourages reasoned discussion and debate,
which is particularly valuable in setting standards and developing
work programmes, and has resulted in affected parties being consulted
on equal terms on new legislation at an early stage in its development.
We see clear advantages in having the health
and safety functions undertaken by HSE within a single organisation.
Inspectors can fulfil several different roles in one visit, for
example inspection, investigation and information provision. Inspectors
also have a large body of expertise to draw on which enables them
to exercise discretion by taking issues back to consider with
colleagues. We would emphasise the need to ensure that the appropriate
input and expertise of the Medical Inspectors is employed when
health issues are being addressed.
In general we are satisfied with the existing
HSC/E methods of operation: we believe that current procedures
In its approach to the formulation of legislation,
we regard the HSC/E as a model of good practice: consultation
documents are generally of a high standard and there is, usually,
adequate time for consultees to prepare considered responses.
Our members value the risk-based and goals-based
approaches to regulation adopted by the HSC/E and the open, consultative
approach generally adopted by HSE inspectors.
We believe, however, that there is a great deal
of scope for improved working arrangements between HSE and the
environment agencies to ensure efficient use of resources and
minimise the burden on operators. The UK implementation of the
EU Directives on COMAH and IPPC presents opportunities for:
rationalisation of the data required
from operators on Safety Reports and IPPC Authorisations;
co-ordination of inspections.
We also see scope for better co-ordination between
Local Authorities and the HSE to ensure consistency of approach.
A further dimension is the extent to which the
implementation of health and safety management systems within
industry could reduce the requirement for traditional inspection
The comparative information that is available
on occupational safety performance across European countries shows
that the UK has the lowest fatal injury rate and the third lowest
over-3-day injury rate.
To maintain and improve on this performance
will require a combination of approaches, including:
co-operation with major companies
to use their influence with suppliers, customers and contractors
to foster the adoption of sound management systems;
targeting of poorly performing sectors.
Within the chemical industry we are currently
devoting a great deal of effort to ensuring that the COMAH regulations
are implemented effectively and that there is constructive working
between HSE and the operators of COMAH establishments. This process
has been adversely affected by the introduction of charging (see
Data on the incidence of occupational illness
is less easy to obtain and there is little information on international
CIA is fully supportive of the increased attention
that the HSE is now paying to occupational health, through the
development of the new strategy.
CIA strongly opposed the introduction of charges
for COMAH-related activities and was disappointed that the Government
decided to go ahead with this.
The responses to the consultations on the HSC/E
Quinquennial Review and the COMAH Regulations showed that there
was little or no support for the introduction of charges, and
we are forced to conclude that COMAH installations were seen as
an easy target for revenue generation.
We fear that this will herald a deterioration
in the relationship between the operators of COMAH establishments
and the HSE, and that attention will be diverted from major accident
hazard control to administration, cost avoidance and confrontation.
That impact will bear little relationship to the sums of money
Our members have already encountered a range
of problems in the application of the charging requirements which
have served to confirm their concerns that:
there will be inconsistencies among
inspectors in deciding what activities are chargeable;
excessive charges will be made for
the "office" time of inspectors;
increases are being made to the time
programmed to be spent on inspections, with the aim of meeting
In addition, we have already been given examples
of situations in which a member company, with a history of good
relations with its inspector, has decided not to contact him for
advice for fear of being charged for it. A regime of charging
for all COMAH-related activities will, we fear, damage relationships
between HSE and the operators: companies will become increasingly
reluctant to initiate contact with the HSE. Such a situation will
not foster improved safety performance.
The justification for the implementation of
charging for COMAH activities is, to say the least, dubious, more
so for inspection activities and particularly for the inclusion
of lower-tier establishments. Charging will be a burden for our
member companies, which will bear particularly on the smaller
The charging regime that has been implemented
bears no relation to safey performance: effectively, the COMAH
sites will be charged for taking preventive measures while other
operators with poorer safety records will be unaffected.
With the introduction of charging will come
an increased expectation that the regulators will operate to high
levels of efficiency in their dealings with operators. Our members
will not be prepared to pay for the inefficiencies of the regulators.
There is thus a new obligation on the regulators to be prepared
to demonstrate that they are acting prudently and efficiently
in their management and operation of COMAH activities from its
implemenation date. For example, we recognise the opportunity
for the competent authority to make efficiencies from avoiding
duplication of common requirements of COMAH and IPC (IPPC). We
would also wish the regulators to demonstrate that the procedures
for hiring consultants are effective and ensure value for money.
Our members are prepared to support an approach
to H&S regulation enforcement which targets bad actors and
comes down heavily on unacceptable performance. However, we have
some concerns about possible moves by HSE to demonstrate that
it is a tough regulator. If clumsily handled, this could prejudice
the constructive relationships with operators which are essential
for performance improvement.
We have had some direct experience of this recently
in our dealings with the Environment Agency which, under similar
political pressure, engaged in high profile activities which we
regarded as unfair and which were in danger of causing unhelpful
reactions by our members. It is essential that any action taken
by the HSE to demonstrate its toughness is proportionate to the
situation, and that high profile activities are based on accurate
information and an even-handed approach.