Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda

Memorandum by Health and Safety Executive (TAB 31)


  1.1  As part of its inquiry, the Urban Affairs Sub-Committee of the Transport, Local Government and Regions Committee has invited the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to comment on certain issues. These include: health and safety standards for tall buildings; standards for evacuation times; whether some of the problems faced as a result of the attack on the World Trade Centre on 11 September would be repeated here; and details of the recent practice evacuation of Canary Wharf.

  1.2  This memorandum sets out HSE's responsibilities that have a bearing on the structural safety of buildings that are used as workplaces. These apply to all buildings and there are no specific requirements in health and safety legislation covering tall buildings.

  1.3  HSE's involvement in these issues is restricted to the protection of health and safety of those at work and those effected by work activities under the Health and Safety at Work, etc, Act 1974 (HSWA) and associated health and safety regulations. HSWA places duties on employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of their employees while at work. The Act also places a general duty on employers and the self employed to conduct their undertakings in a way that ensures, so far as is reasonably practicable, that people other than their employees are not exposed to risks to their health and safety.

  1.4  This includes matters relating to the safe construction, use and demolition of structures but does not extend to building control and evacuation procedures. HSE was not therefore involved in the recent Canary Wharf evacuation exercise. These issues fall largely to the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR) which has responsibility for the Building Regulations and general fire safety legislation. However, HSE works with DTLR to ensure a co-ordinated approach to enforcement.


  2.1  The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 1994 (CDM), which came into force in 1995, are intended to protect the health and safety of people working in construction and others who may be affected by their activities. CDM does not contain any explicit requirements for tall buildings. But it does place explicit duties on designers, including the need to design structures that are safe to construct, maintain and demolish. If this is not properly addressed at the design stage, it may be impossible to put it right later—causing substantial additional costs, for example, because expensive access equipment is needed.

  2.2  A revised Approved Code of Practice and guidance on CDM has just been published. This stresses that designers must identify risks, eliminate them or, failing that, reduce them, and provide key information for safe construction, maintenance and demolition. Clearly, therefore, designers need to understand the practical implications of their designs.

  2.3  In the spring Health and Safety Commission plans to publish a Discussion Document on the future for construction health and safety. This will be an opportunity for people to express views on possible changes to CDM and to provide other non-legislative ideas for improving health and safety in construction and the links with the Building Regulations.


  3.1  More specific regulations place duties on employers and landlords in relation to the maintenance of the workplace. For example, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 place implicit duties on employers to ensure the solidity and stability of the workplace through maintenance. HSE are currently consulting on proposals which include a proposal to make this duty explicit in order to ensure implementation of the European Commission Workplace Directive.


  4.1  The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, require employers to undertake a risk assessments to identify any significant and foreseeable risks to health and safety and, as a result of duties placed includes the measures needed to ensure that evacuation plans prepared under fire safety legislation are not compromised.


  5.1  HSWA and the supporting legislation is enforced by both HSE and Local Authority inspectors following agreed parameters of proportionality, consistency, targeting and transparency.

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Prepared 22 January 2002