Memorandum submitted by The Heating And
Ventilating Contractors' Association
0.1 The Heating and Ventilating Contractors'
Association (HVCA) is a trade Association which represents businesses
which operate in the building engineering services sector of the
0.2 The HVCA represents the interests of
businesses active in the design, installation, commissioning and
maintenance of heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration(hvacr)
products and equipment. HVCA membership comprises some 1,400 companies
with 2,000 offices located throughout the UK, having a combined
turnover of £3 billion and a 50,000-plus workforce.
0.3 It is estimated that HVCA members are
responsible for the installation and maintenance of some 80% of
the country's industrial and commercial hvacr systems.
The Association is pleased to be able to have the
opportunity to make a submission to the Select Committee on this
subject and would be happy to appear in person should the Committee
feel this would be beneficial.
1. The HSE "Fundamental Review of Gas
1.1 In 1999, the HSC published a discussion
document asking for views on the regulatory regime as it applied
It is understood that there was a good response
to the document, and from the feedback the HSC published a "proposals
for change" document making 47 recommendations for change.
The recommendations were accepted by the then
Minister (DTLR) and HSE were asked to implement.
To date, very few of the recommendations have
been implemented. The timescale for the introduction of new legislation
has been put back on several occasions.
At the current rate of progress the next fundamental
review will be initiated before the recommendations of the existing
review have been implemented.
It has been suggested that the reasons for the
HSE's difficulties relate to a lack of management resources. However,
the Association is not convinced that this is the case and believes
that the HSE has simply "lost interest" in implementing
the review recommendations
2. HSE and its Role in Regulating CORGI
2.1 In 1990, the HSE oversaw the formation
of a statutory registration scheme for gas installation businesses.
It was also instrumental, with the support of industry, in the
formation of The Council for Registered Gas Installers (CORGI).
CORGI was initially managed by the CORGI Council,
a body made up of interested organisations. However, following
a review of its operation, the management of CORGI was taken away
from the CORGI Council by the HSE and given to a board of management
appointed by the HSE.
Since this change, the HVCA has seen CORGI become
uncommunicative, unresponsive and dictatorial in its operations.
It no longer has the Association's support or that of a number
of other gas industry bodies.
The way that it has recently introduced new
entry requirements for trainees wishing to take competency testing
, in such a way that Plumbing trainees can no longer gain their
NVQs is a case in point.
The HSE, who created the body and oversee its
operations, seem unwilling or unable to bring about the change
it recognises is needed to re-introduce the transparency and accountability
that much of the industry believes is essential.
It has been suggested that the reasons for the
HSE's difficulties with CORGI relate to a lack of management resources.
However, the Association is not convinced that this is the case
and believe the HSE simply does not have the desire to make the
With regard to the specific issues identified
in your Press Notice, we would comment as follows:
3. The Legislative Framework: To What Extent
has the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and Subsequent Legislation
at National and European Levels Been Successful in Improving Standards
of Health and Safety?
3.1 The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
and the other national and European legislation which are in place
provide an effective framework for regulating health and safety
in the UK. From our contacts with other similar trade bodies in
the EU and worldwide it is clear that the British framework is
held in very high esteem.
3.2 However, in terms of the factors that
affect the hvacr sector, the lack of HSE monitoring and enforcement
activity allows less responsible firms to operate with poor safety
management processes in place in an environment where there is
very little likelihood of getting caught.
The responsible businesses in the sector who
are complying fully with the legislation, for example those who
are members of our Association, find that this lack of a level
playing field regarding health and safety compliance extremely
worrying. They are concerned that it is damaging the general perception
of the industry and but also affecting their ability to compete
in the marketplace.
3.3 We do recognise that the HSE's strategies
and programmes are the best that could be achieved with the very
limited resources it has available.
However, a properly resourced HSE would be able
to carry out the greater degree of monitoring and enforcement
which would we believe is necessary in order to accelerate the
rate of change.
3.4 We believe that in addition to trying
to convince industry of the business case for good health and
safety management, a significant part of the HSE's role is to
enforce the legislation which it has put in place.
4.0 Is Britain on Course to Meet the Targets
set out in the Revitalising Health And Safety Strategy?
4.1 We believe that the UK is on course
to meet most, if not all of the very challenging targets put in
place by the Government and HSE in the Revitalising Health and
Safety policy document.
The hard work and endeavour by the hvacr sector
of the construction industry to improve it's health and safety
performance has been impressive.
However, it is disappointing to note that while
there has been a step change in terms of health and safety within
the responsible side of the sector, is hard to quantify how much
work has been carried out by those who do not belong to a trade
association or who operate on the fringes.
Members still report of contractors whose working
procedures are extremely slipshod and leave much to be desired.
5. Does the HSE get the Balance Right Between
Prevention and Enforcement?
5.1 We do not believe that the HSE has established
the right priorities to bring about improvements in the sector.
We believe that in addition to trying to convince industry of
the business case for good health and safety management, a significant
part of the HSE's role is to monitor work activities and enforce
the legislation which is in place. There are many businesses who
are not impressed by the rhetoric and still do not see the commercial
value of adopting good sound health and safety practices. Such
businesses seem only prepared to respond to routine monitoring
and enforcement action.
6. Is it Sufficiently Proactive to Address
Developing Hazards at Work Such as Stress and Passive Smoking?
The HSE has been very successful in identifying
the developing emerging hazards at work such as stress, passive
smoking and driving at work. However, dealing with the proactive
aspects of health and safety is merely one facet of the Executive's
activity and should not be further developed at the expense of
what the Association sees as being one of its core activities
ie monitoring and enforcement.
7.0 Are Penalties for Health and Safety
Offences set at an Appropriate Level?
7.1 The penalties for health and safety
breaches for medium and larger size businesses seem appropriate.
However, the fines meted out in magistrates courts to smaller
companies do not seem to be very severe. This may be due to the
Government's tariff structure but the message it sends to industry
is that the little companies "get off" relatively lightly.
It also seems that the HSE have a policy of
taking enforcement action against larger companies. This seems
to be based on the view that the publicity gained from one large
company prosecution is more beneficial than prosecuting a number
of small companies.
Many medium and large businesses have reached
a point where they feel they are being "picked on".
8. To What Extent is Health and Safety Legislation
8.1 The very nature of health and safety
legislation in this country, which is formulated on the basis
of the "goal setting" approach does present difficulties
for business and industry.
The goal setting approach means that a further
tier of statutory guidance and advice is contained in Approved
Codes of Practice (ACOP) and even these often do not prescribe
what must be achieved.
When asked to clarify, the HSE usually refuse
to give further guidance and say that it would be for a court
to decide how the laws, ACOP and guidance should be interpreted.
8.2 Terms such as "adequate" "reasonable"
and "suitable and sufficient" leave business in the
unenviable position of trying to set in place a standard which
they hope will satisfy a court should the subject be tested.
In order to ensure compliance, the business
takes the "belt and braces view" and puts in place procedures
and paperwork systems which are overly complex and restrictive,
widening the gulf still further between those companies who want
to be good, safe employers, and those who do just enough.
From a trade association viewpoint, because
of the goalsetting nature of the legislation, and the lack of
prescriptive guidance, any advice given by the trade association
will inevitably not be based upon what is reasonable, but what
will ensure compliance in the worst case.
9. Does More Need to be Done to Encourage
9.1 We believe that whilst the HSE have
a role in helping industry to develop good practice, this is not
one of their primary roles. Guidance and what can be deemed good
practice will develop much more effectively if there is clear
and unambiguous law and sound support from the HSE when an industry
guidance document is being promulgated.
10. Is There Sufficient Emphasis on "Health"
in Health and Safety?
10.1 There is certainly less emphasis currently
being placed on chronic ill health issues caused by work. The
hvacr sector is likely to be one of those hit hard by the effects
of Asbestos related illness as most workers will have come into
contact with the substance at some point during their working
lives and focussed support from the HSE on how employers should
deal with the issue would be most welcome.
11. Is the HSE Sufficiently Well-Resourced
to Meet its Objectives?
11.1 The Association believes that this
is the primary issue. The HSE has suffered from a year on year
decrease in funding in real terms and have clearly reviewed their
activities on the basis of the finances available. The main casualty
of this approach appears to have been a reduction in monitoring
and enforcement with HSE taking backseat role.
Whilst the case for good, sound health and safety
practices in business are clear to the converted, there are many
businesses whose health and safety practices leave much to be
Such businesses are able to work to lower standards
and can tender at prices that good responsible companies cannot
We believe that the most effective way to affect
the culture in such businesses is to have an effective enforcement
12. To What Extent is There Good Coordination
Between HSE and Those Other Parts of Central and Local Government
With a Role to Play in Promoting Health and Safety?
12.1 We are not aware of any coordination
between local authorities and the HSE.
The Heating and Ventilating Contractors' Association
13 February 2004