Memorandum submitted by EEFthe
EEF is the representative voice of manufacturing,
engineering and technology-based businesses with a membership
of 6,000 companies employing around 800,000 people. Comprising
11 regional EEF Associations, the Engineering Construction Industries
Association (ECIA) and UK Steel, EEF is one of the leading providers
of business services in employment relations and employment law,
health, safety and environment, manufacturing performance, education,
training and skills.
The system for the regulation
of health and safety in Britain is generally effective, but to
remain this way it must be the subject of continuous review and
The framework of health and
safety legislation is generally strong, proportionate, effective
and well understood by stakeholders.
EEF has concerns about the evidential
basis for some new European Directives and the potential impact
that they could have on British industry.
EEF supports the principle of
a merged Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Health and Safety
Commission (HSC) but would prefer to see the management structure
based around the Cadbury Principles, including both executives
Inconsistency in the regulatory
approach taken by HSE and local authorities is a key weakness
of the current system.
The proposal for merging HSE and
HSC and the Draft Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Bill both
miss opportunities to address this situation.
EEF would like to see HSE responsible
for setting overall standards and approaches for health and safety
regulation in Britain.
EEF feels that voluntary guidance
is the best way to promote effective high level leadership in
health and safety management.
EEF welcomes the new Corporate
Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act, and hopes that it will
prove effective in addressing the shortcomings of the previous
HSE do have a role to play as
part of a streamlined and effective local authority planning process.
The balance of interventions
employed by HSE is generally appropriate but must remain risk
based and be reviewed on a regular basis. New strategies could
be employed to free up resources.
Occupational health is an area
of rising concern. HSE must target resources to greatest effect
and avoid being drawn into non-work related issues.
DETAILED EVIDENCE ON KEY POINTS OF INQUIRY
1. Britain leads Europe in the field of
health and safety at work. In 2006 the UK's statistics for work
related accidents and fatalities were lower than those in many
other member states. However, a significant number of people are
still injured, become ill, or lose their lives, at work each year,
so there is still scope for further improvement.
2. The legislative framework for health
and safety in Britain is robust and well established. The goal
setting approach of the Health and Safety at Work Act and other
subordinate legislation has helped to ensure continued relevance
of application. This approach is well understood by stakeholders,
and is effectively supported through the publication of guidance,
codes of practice and case study examples by HSE and other agencies.
3. Historically European Directives have
been incorporated effectively into this framework. We were pleased
that, in their judgement last year regarding infraction proceedings
brought against Britain by the European Commission (EC), the European
Court of Justice endorsed the use of qualified duties for implementation
of health and safety directives in Britain. Qualified duties (eg
"so far as is reasonably practicable") are a key component
of British health and safety legislation. It is therefore important
that they can be applied to the implementation of legislation
originating in Europe, in order to ensure continuity of approach.
We do however have concerns about a suite of new European legislation
known as the Physical Agents Directives, and in particular the
Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) Directive.
4. Since 2002, EEF has been highlighting
to HSE and the EC key concerns about the EMF Directive. Latterly
HSE have accepted that there is no evidence to suggest that exposure
to EMF in standard industrial settings causes harm, and that the
directive would therefore result in significant costs to business
whilst delivering no benefits to the health and wellbeing of workers.
The EC have recently proposed a delay to the directive for four
years to allow quantification of these issues. EEF urges the Government
and HSE to fund urgent research in this area in order to inform
an amending directive to be drawn up by the EC.
Structure for regulation of health and safety
5. HSC and HSE are well regarded by the
majority of stakeholders. Employers appreciate the professionalism
shown by staff and actively seek their advice. Proactive engagement
of this sort helps to promote effective good practice in health
and safety management in a supportive way. Of course it is also
essential to ensure that sanctions are available and applied effectively
in appropriate circumstances. In general terms we feel that HSE's
balance of interventions is about right, although this is not
always the case in relation to health and safety enforcement by
6. Enforcement of health and safety is a
complex issue involving over 400 different agencies, which creates
a confusing landscape for businesses. Some multi-site companies
are required to liaise on a daily basis with a huge number of
different regulators, experiencing significant inconsistency,
in just this one key field. We believe that this is the most significant
weakness of the current enforcement structure, and we are concerned
that two pending pieces of regulation miss key opportunities to
address this issue. The first of these is the proposed merger
between HSE and HSC, and the second is the Draft Regulatory Enforcement
and Sanctions Bill.
7. The Department for Work and Pensions
(DWP) has recently consulted on proposals for a merger of HSE
and HSC. HSE is a large and complex operational body and it is
therefore essential that the people who are responsible for the
stewardship of the organisation are in a position not only to
discuss issues of policy, but also to take collective responsibility
for oversight of the key functions of the organisation. EEF believes
that this objective would be best fulfilled by a unitary board,
established in line with the Cadbury Principles, including a mixture
of executive and non-executive directors. We do not believe that
the entirely nonexecutive body proposed in the recent consultation
exercises could meet this objective. The stated intention of the
merger is to create a single regulatory authority. However, we
have concerns that this will not be achieved by the proposed model.
Low risk premises will still be regulated by one of 400 different
local authorities. EEF would like to see a merged HSE as the standard
setting body for health and safety, establishing the framework
against which local authorities would regulate. This would implement
a similar model to that adopted by National Institute for Clinical
8. Currently, "lead", or "home"
authority systems are the only mechanism to promote consistency
in health and safety regulation for multi-site businesses. The
effectiveness of these schemes is highly variable, and employers
who have entered into these arrangements would be keen to see
improvements. The proposals for the role of the Local Better Regulation
Office (LBRO), and a statutory primary authority structure, as
set out in the draft Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Bill,
may go some way towards achieving an improvement. It will however,
be essential to ensure that the LBRO does not simply become yet
another voice in an already complex regulatory structure. It is
unfortunate that national regulators such as HSE will be outside
the scope of this legislation, and will not therefore be party
to the new primary authority system. We believe that this represents
another missed opportunity to address inconsistencies in regulatory
9. Recently HSE have informed businesses
classified as top tier sites under the Control of Major Accident
Hazards (COMAH) Regulations that charges for inspection are to
increase by 31%. This is justified as representing recovery of
the full economic cost of delivering this service. However, this
was previously the justification for the existing charging regime.
There has so far been insufficient detail provided to allow a
transparent analysis of HSE's argument. Currently only regulatory
activity linked to the specified hazardous process is covered
by charges, but the recent notification sets out HSE's aspiration
for all contact with COMAH sites to be chargeable. This means
that general HSE initiatives and spurious complaints could result
in significant, and unpredictable, additional costs for business.
This is a significant change in policy and EEF feels that it should
be subject to scrutiny against the principles of better regulation,
and that it should also be the subject of proper regulatory impact
assessment and public consultation. There is precedent for this,
as the Environment Agency consult annually on their framework
of charges to business.
10. There is no doubt that effective and
proactive high level leadership is an essential component of effective
health and safety management. EEF believes that this principle
is now widely understood. Historically however, there has been
no clear framework for senior managers to use in structuring their
own involvement to greatest effect, and consequently there has
been little consistency in approach and no clear benchmark for
11. We welcome the recent guidance document
issued by HSC and the Institute of Directors (IoD), and feel that
it will go a long way towards addressing this issue. We feel that
voluntary guidance is the most effective tool to use at the present
time, as it will serve to encourage good practice.
12. We would be reluctant to see additional
legislation in this area. It is important to remember that you
can only legislate for basic standards, whereas you can guide
and encourage towards continuous improvement and adoption of best
13. We believe that the Health and Safety
at Work Act and the Companies Act already contain adequate legal
provision in this area. We are however aware that there is a strong
lobby for additional legislation. We understand that the HSC have
deferred any decision on additional legislation in order to allow
investigation of the effectiveness of the new guidance. We are
concerned that no parameters appear to have been set for this
assessment, and that no baseline data is available. We are therefore
concerned that any future decision on additional legislation will
be based on anecdotal information rather than sound data, and
would thus be contrary the principles of better regulation.
14. EEF welcomes the new Corporate Manslaughter
and Corporate Homicide Act. We believe that it is right and proper
to establish a framework that will hold failing duty holders to
account when a fatality results from corporate negligence. We
feel that the new legislation is fair and well balanced, and we
welcome the publication of guidance to aid interpretation of the
15. We support the Government's view that
inclusion of individual or secondary liability would not have
increased the effectiveness of the legislation. Our experience
suggests that the new act is motivating senior managers to review
the approach taken to health and safety management in their organisation,
and to take a more active role in further development of health
and safety management systems. Had the legislation featured individual
or secondary liability for directors, we feel that many would
have been deterred from involvement in health and safety management
fearing guilt by association, therefore compromising other initiatives
aiming to improve and develop leadership in health and safety
Use of Scientific and Research Data
16. HSE's approach to interpretation and
application of science and research needs to become more robust.
There is an increasing need for empirical data to inform policy
decisions, but there is also a need to evaluate and interpret
such data in a wider context, before applying it in a policy situation.
Subjective surveys should not be viewed in isolation as a reliable
indicator or information source.
17. HSE need to challenge data more robustly,
to review it in the context of all the information available and
to take a pragmatic approach to building policy based on scientific
and research data. This means taking into account the practical
implications of adopting a particular course of action. Confusion
relating to the potential impact of the Electromagnetic Fields
Directive on industry and healthcare in Britain illustrates the
need for improvement in this area.
Better Regulation and Simplification
18. EEF believes that HSE is currently working
effectively in this area. Employers are starting to see the benefits
of initiatives such as the example risk assessments and improved
guidance on the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations.
However, the true test will be whether front line inspectors refer
to these initiatives in their interaction with employers.
19. The number of front line inspectors
is declining and there is a growing population of businesses that
are never visited by a health and safety inspector. This is a
concern, particularly as those organisations most in need of advice
or enforcement are not necessarily those which feature on the
inspection schedules. It is essential that HSE maintain a risk
based approach to inspection and enforcement, targeting their
resources to greatest benefit. We would be keen to see more effective
use of systems which minimise HSE's interaction with organisations
that manage health and safety effectively, thus freeing up resource
to assist poorer performers. The current Large Organisations Pilot
Project has largely failed to deliver on many of the expectations
of key stakeholders, as they have seen little change in engagement
by HSE, but businesses still are keen to engage with HSE to develop
this idea further. A number of large high performing organisations
are keen to contribute to the programme and would be pleased to
adopt a mentoring role and assist health and safety improvement
in other businesses. This could potentially free up inspector
resource still further, but has not been considered as part of
the current project.
20. There is a growing use, by regulators,
of topic based inspection, whereby visits to companies are focused
on a single theme, selected by the regulator. This can create
`tunnel vision' among inspectors, who are reluctant to engage
in discussion of "off topic" issues during visits. Businesses
value the opinions and advice of regulators, particularly HSE
inspectors, and want to get best value from this during a visit,
in order to drive good practice across a wide range of issues.
In addition, limiting the scope of issues reviewed by inspectors
actually reduces opportunities for them to develop their own experience.
21. There is widespread confusion over the
role of Workplace Contact Officers (WCOs). These staff have a
role similar to that of police community support officers. They
do not carry warrant cards and are charged with outreach work,
but businesses do not understand the difference between these
individuals and full inspectors. Employers are looking to every
member of an enforcing authority to provide definitive advice
and guidance, and are frustrated when this is not forthcoming
due to the limited remit and competence of WCOs.
22. HSE must ensure that it concentrates
resource in areas where it can deliver the greatest benefit. Work
related health issues are entirely in scope, and businesses welcome
HSEs advice and guidance in this area. However, issues of general
wellbeing, absence management and rehabilitation are generally
outside of this remit, and HSE should not expend resource in these
areas, particularly as they are the subject of proactive initiatives
from other government agencies.
23. As safety issues are increasingly well
managed, it is inevitable that situations involving work related
illness will gain a higher profile. Health situations are often
complex and have long latency periods, complicating investigation
and management. HSE needs to develop its resource in this area.
Specialist occupational health practitioners provide a vital source
of information for front line inspectors, as well as carrying
out inspections in their own right. EEF is concerned over the
depletion of the Employment Medical Advisory Service (EMAS) within
HSE. We are not looking for EMAS to support businesses directly,
but to provide a specialist resource within HSE to underpin policy
and regulation in the area of occupational health on an ongoing
24. HSE is generally an effective regulator,
however it is essential that it is able to adapt in order to continue
to regulate in a consistent, transparent, proportionate and relevant
manner going forwards. It must now make best use of the available
options in order to establish a strong regulatory framework for