Select Committee on Work and Pensions Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Institution of Occupational Safety & Health (IOSH)

ABOUT IOSH

  Founded in 1945, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is Europe's largest OSH professional body with 31,000+ members in almost 80 countries, including around 11,500 Chartered Safety and Health Practitioners. Incorporated by Royal Charter, a registered charity, and an ILO international NGO, IOSH is the guardian of standards of competence and provides professional development and awareness training.

  The Institution regulates and steers the profession, providing impartial, authoritative, free guidance. Regularly consulted by Government and other bodies, IOSH is the founding member and secretariat to UK, European and International professional body networks. The Institution also has a research and development fund, which is developing the evidence-base for OSH policy and practice.

  IOSH has 28 Branches in the UK and worldwide including the Caribbean, Hong Kong, Middle East and the Republic of Ireland, 17 special interest groups covering aviation; communications and media; construction; consultancy; education; environment; fire risk management; food, drink and hospitality; hazardous industries; healthcare; international; offshore; public services; railways; retail and distribution; rural industries; and safety sciences. IOSH members work at both strategic and operational levels across all employment sectors and our vision is:

    "A world of work which is safe, healthy and sustainable."

  IOSH welcomes this opportunity to provide written evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee Inquiry into The work of the Health and Safety Commission and Executive. Our responses to the questions have been developed from comments supplied by IOSH members, our submissions to other health and safety-related consultations and includes reference to relevant research where appropriate.

SUMMARY

Resources

    —  HSE should be adequately resourced to fulfil both its inspection and enforcement function and its advisory/awareness-raising role and to engage in a number of random inspections of the "unknowns" and sector "blitzes" (such as in construction) to act as a deterrent to rogue employers.

    —  IOSH believes more resourcing is necessary to address current and future challenges, including: the growth in the workforce, number of businesses and potentially at-risk groups including the ageing workforce, migrant workers and people with disabilities; preventing accidents and ill health, including work-related stress, MSDs and work-related road traffic accidents; the increase in construction work as the Government aims to build three million more homes by 2020, undertake the building required for the London Olympics 2012, and complete the "cross-rail" project by 2017; and ageing infrastructure such as in the offshore industry and emerging new risks such as nanotechnology, climate change and terrorism. In addition, adequate resourcing in needed to cover HSE's new areas of responsibility, including: gangmaster licensing; adventure activity licensing; generic design assessment for new nuclear power plants; human and animal pathogens; and as the "competent authority" for REACH.

    —  We recommend a phased and eventual doubling of front-line inspectors. Also, the formation of a unified enforcement authority; or as a minimum, that government funding for LA health and safety enforcement activity is ring-fenced, to protect it from competing demands. HSE should have a close relationship with the Local Better Regulation Office to avoid guidance and priorities produced by this body being at variance with those of the HSE.

    —  We would like to see more recognition of the health and safety practitioner's role as part of multidisciplinary teams, helping to prevent accidents and ill health and promote wellbeing and where problems do develop, facilitating appropriate and sustainable return to work.

Education and guidance

    —  We believe it would be beneficial if HSE helped employers to better appreciate their duties as directors and clients (under CDM) and what qualification and experience levels to look for when seeking competent health and safety advice.

    —  We also recommend that all HSE guidance is made free to download from their website and that improvements are made to e-COSHH Essentials.

Legal framework

    —  We support HSE's continued work in simplifying and consolidating legislation and promoting the "sensible risk management" approach and the "business case" for health and safety. We also believe there should be strengthening and better use of the legal framework so that:

    —  there are explicit, enforceable health and safety duties for directors (and their equivalents) and more frequent use of directors disqualification;

    —  wide-ranging remedial orders are used, aimed at achieving long-term compliance eg requirement for compulsory training of senior managers in health and safety; access to competent health and safety advice; appropriate use of behavioural safety programmes; and mandatory third-party audit;

    —  fine levels are increased to reflect the severity of the H&S offence;

    —  there is compulsory public H&S performance reporting for large and medium organisations;

    —  gangmaster licensing is extended to construction;

    —  there are stated minimum qualification levels and a legally regulated H&S profession;

    —  HSE advises planning authorities on societal risk from major hazard sites; and

    —  work-related road traffic accidents are reportable under RIDDOR and consideration is given to collecting data on migrant workers.

IOSH RESPONSE

THE LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK

Is the health and safety regulatory burden on businesses proportionate?

  1.  IOSH does not believe the health and safety regulatory burden on business is generally disproportionately onerous. However, we believe organisations need help in understanding the legal requirements and that there needs to be consistency and efficacy in enforcement, so that sustained improvement is achieved.

Background

  2.  UK health and safety legislation is risk-based, as is the supporting enforcement regime, so there is an inherent proportionality to the system.

  3.  Proposed UK health and safety legislation is subject to public consultation and regulatory impact assessments, which means that if it is not expected to bring benefits in proportion to the costs, it may be amended or may not progress; however, most is now EU generated and so we are obliged to implement it, though the UK can exert influence [see paragraph 17 below].

  4.  HSE's "Measuring up" performance report (2006) estimated that the amount of UK health and safety legislation has reduced by around a half over the last 30 years.1

  5.  HSE is keen to simplify health and safety regulation, eg the recent consolidation of three previous sets of asbestos legislation on prohibition, control and management, and licensing into the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006; and the combining of CDM 1994 and Construction (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1996 into CDM 2007. They have also made it easier to report incidents under RIDDOR, via an "incident contact centre" telephone / web reporting service. HSE's work on simplifying legislation can be found on their website.2

Areas for improvement

  6.  We do not believe that HSE / LAs are able to be sufficiently proactive in educating / advising employers and workers or in enforcement activity and need to have their funding restored to levels commensurate with the Government's ambitions for "revitalising health and safety".

  7.  It has been estimated that the average workplace would only be inspected once every 10 years (Harper 2001, citing Dalton, 1998).3

  8.  We believe that current fines for health and safety offences generally do not reflect the gravity involved and are too low to act as a deterrent, see answer below on penalties [see paragraph 58 below].

  9.  Directors do not have explicit legal health and safety duties and have rarely been subject to disqualification following health and safety convictions, not less than 10 altogether—unlike for corporate insolvency and related issues, where the figure for 2004 alone was over 1,500 (RR597).4

  10.  Work-related road traffic accidents are not reportable under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations, which means they are unlikely to be investigated by the HSE / LAs and any culpable employers are therefore unlikely to be prosecuted under health and safety law.

Recommendations

  11.  The formation of a unified enforcement authority; or as a minimum that government funding for LA health and safety enforcement activity is ring-fenced, to protect it from competing demands. We believe unification is important to address the perceived inconsistency in standards of enforcement and to maximise efficiency in resource deployment.

  12.  HSE should be adequately resourced to fulfil both its inspection and enforcement function and its advisory / awareness-raising role and to engage in a number of random inspections of the "unknowns" and sector "blitzes" (such as those in construction) to act as a deterrent to rogue employers. The Hampton requirement that "no inspection should take place without reason" needs to be tempered with the recognition that just because employers are "not known" to the enforcer (eg have not reported any accidents), does not mean they are keeping workers safe; they could be under-reporting or their workers could be unwilling or afraid to complain.

  13.  HSE should continue its work in simplifying and consolidating legislation and promoting the "sensible risk management" approach and the "business case" for health and safety.

  14.  HSE should have close relations with the Local Better Regulation Office (LBRO), as we would be concerned if guidance and priorities produced by this body were at variance with those of the HSE.

  15.  Better use of the legal framework so that: work-related road traffic accidents are reportable under RIDDOR; fines are increased to reflect the severity of the offence; there are explicit, enforceable health and safety duties for directors (and their equivalents) and more frequent use of directors disqualification; and use of wide-ranging remedial orders, aimed at achieving longterm improvement and compliance eg requirement for compulsory training or retraining of senior managers in health and safety; access to competent health and safety advice; appropriate use of behavioural safety programmes; and mandatory third-party audit. We also support the use of adverse publicity orders.

Are EU directives interpreted and translated by HSC into UK law appropriately?

  16.  In general we feel that EU directives are appropriately interpreted and translated into UK law. IOSH welcomed HSE's reported progress on negotiating in Europe to ensure better regulation principles are considered during EU policy development and that they influenced the Council resolution on the EU Occupational Health and Safety Strategy to 2012 to include a call to improve and simplify the administrative and regulatory framework, taking account of the EC's commitment to reduce administrative burdens by 25%. Also, that in June 2007, the European IOSH submission to Work and Pensions Committee Inquiry into the work of HSC/E—January 2008. Commission's case against the UK's use of the term "so far as is reasonably practicable" was dismissed by the European Court of Justice and that further research has been conducted concerning the Electro Magnetic Fields Directive.5

  17.  We do, however, have some concerns regarding the inadequate interpretation and translation of article 7 of the Framework Directive (EC 89/391) into UK law. We believe the UK does not adequately define what constitutes health and safety competence ie " . . . the necessary capabilities and aptitudes . . ." or what constitutes " . . . sufficient in number." The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 fail to indicate a minimum qualification or experience level for those providing health and safety assistance to employers, and unfortunately, this was not rectified in the new HSE guidance on "Getting specialist help with health and safety". IOSH is keen to help clarify the situation; we have produced new free guidance on this6 and have also called for health and safety to be made a legally regulated profession, so that unqualified people can no longer practice. There is an early day motion on this subject (EDM 234) which currently has 53 MP signatories.

Recommendations

  18.  HSE should specify a minimum qualification level for those providing health and safety advice in the MHSWR Approved Code of Practice and their new "micro" website for small businesses, covering with "access to competent health and safety advice".

  19.  The UK Government should introduce legal regulation of those providing health and safety advice. We believe it is wrong that currently anyone can call themselves and operate as a health and safety adviser (or similar) without any qualifications or experience.

Are businesses given appropriate guidance by HSE on their obligations under H&S law?

  20.  In recent years, we feel HSE has greatly improved the quality and usability of its guidance and its website; however, we suggest further improvements could be made in some areas.

Recommendations

  21.  All HSE publications should be made freely downloadable from its website. Unfortunately, some of this excellent guidance is priced and so may put off potential users, particularly small businesses.

  22.  Improvements should be made to "e-COSHH Essentials" to provide easier access to relevant information elsewhere on the HSE website; and that "Chemical Essentials", developed in 2003, should be funded and made available via the HSE website.

  23.  Appropriate government guidance should be provided on minimum qualification levels for competent health and safety advice [see paragraphs 18 and 19 above].

What impact will the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act (2007) have on businesses' approach to occupational health and safety?

  24.  IOSH welcomes the new Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act (CM/CH) as a driver to improved health and safety standards. We believe its impact will be affected by the level of awareness of it; its enforcement; and the prominence given to the prosecution of cases and levels of sentencing. Assuming these are all adequate, we expect the introduction of the new offence will provide a stronger deterrence to the minority of organisations that might otherwise disregard their health and safety responsibilities. We also anticipate a wider affect and that organisations may generally review their health and safety arrangements, realising that failure to ensure positive attitudes, policies, systems or accepted practices, may not only lead to serious accidents, but also to prosecution.

  25.  Where there are convictions, we believe that sentencing can have a significant impact, with the use of wide-ranging remedial orders to help ensure long-term compliance and adverse publicity orders, potentially affecting reputation and business prospects. We believe organisations convicted of the serious offence of corporate manslaughter (or homicide) will need to rebuild public trust and confidence and we expect this will help motivate them to publicly report on the improvement measures they have taken, and will continue to take, in order to restore their reputations.

  26.  Additionally, because it is endorsed by the HSC and failure to follow it can be considered by juries in their deliberation of CM/CH cases, we expect the new guidance on directors' health and safety duties (Leading health and safety at work) to be given more impetus and weight.

  27.  It is important to remember that this offence is for the gravest of cases and will involve gross breach and standards falling far below what can be reasonably be expected in the circumstances. We would be disappointed if this legislation was used as "an excuse" by organisations not wanting a particular cost or effort, to unnecessarily "ban" adventure or team building activities that could be safely undertaken if well-planned and managed.

Recommendations

  28.  HSE should be closely consulted by the courts when imposing remedial orders, which should be sufficiently wide-ranging to address underlying causes and ensure long-term compliance.

  29.  The Government should educate the public and media on what the new law is about (protecting lives from real risks) and helps ensure it is not confused with risk aversion.

Are directors' health and safety duties appropriately covered by voluntary guidance?

  30.  Although the duties are better described in new guidance, we believe there is also a need for explicit and enforceable directors' duties; non-compliance with which would constitute an indictable offence and so, potentially lead to disqualification of convicted directors.

  31.  As indicated above, the new guidance on directors' health and safety duties "Leading health and safety at work", is a significant improvement in describing the duties in language that directors and senior management will more readily recognise and providing case study material. However, unfortunately, once again we feel there is inadequate definition of competent health and safety advice.

  32.  IOSH also believes that the leaders of all medium and large organisations should report publicly on their organisations' health and safety performance. We successfully argued for the inclusion of health and safety in the Operating and Financial Review (OFR) and were disappointed that compulsory OFR was then overturned by the Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP in 2005. IOSH would like new "Business Reviews" to be compulsory and implemented without delay and to include any significant health and safety issues.

  33.  We believe that education of potential business leaders should include health and safety duties as a compulsory element of the syllabus (eg MBAs).

Recommendations

  34.  Directors' health and safety responsibilities should be turned into explicit, enforceable duties, supported by the new guidance, including a definition of competent health and safety advice.

  35.  There should be compulsory public health and safety performance reporting for medium and large organisations.

  36.  There should be better health and safety education and training for directors and their equivalents.

What influence does HSE have as a statutory consultee in local authority planning?

  38.  HSE advises planning authorities on the risks that major hazard sites present, as a statutory consultee for specified types of development consultation within a distance established around a major hazard site. HSE's advice does not currently take account of the cumulative effects of separate developments over time around a site (societal risk) and does not advise on developments outside the consultation distance.

  39.  HSE is consulted by some planning authorities during the preparation of their Development Plans and we believe this consultation should be a required part of the development planning process, though there would be resource implications for HSE. We support the HSE proposal presented in CD212 (July 2007)7 to target the 40 or so planning authorities, and as necessary, adjoining authorities, where major hazard sites are located that HSE have identified as requiring societal risk assessments and also the periodic monitoring of other major hazard sites where there is development.

  40.  We suggest it may be possible to develop a software system, similar to PADHI (Planning Advice for Developments near Hazardous Installations), with the planning authority only needing to consult HSE directly in cases where it felt the need for more specific advice. However, we believe there should be a facility similar to that in the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2007 where development plans exceeding certain criteria must be referred to HSE, who could then request further information and advice, as appropriate.

Recommendation

  41.  HSE's role should include assessing and advising on societal risks associated with planning and development that could be adversely affected by major hazard sites, and they should be appropriately resourced for this.

RESOURCES

Does the HSE have sufficient resources to fulfill its objectives as the health and safety regulator and meet its PSA targets? Does HSE allocate its budget efficiently? Are there areas of HSE's operations that require additional investment?

  42.  We do not believe that HSE has sufficient resources to fulfil its objectives. Although the HSE regularly inspect larger and more dangerous workplaces such as nuclear plants and large chemical plants, most average workplaces will only see an inspector every 10 years (Harper 2001, citing Dalton, 1998).3 The IOSH view is that HSE needs to be adequately resourced to engage in a number of random inspections of the "unknowns" and sector "blitzes" (such as those in construction) to act as a deterrent to rogue employers.

  43.  We recommend a phased and eventual doubling of frontline inspectors to address the current and future challenges: the growth in the workforce, number of businesses and potentially at-risk groups including the ageing workforce, migrant workers and people with disabilities; preventing accidents and ill health, including work-related stress, MSDs and work-related road traffic accidents; the increase in construction work as the Government aims to build three million more homes by 2020, undertake the building required for the London Olympics 2012, and complete the "cross-rail" project by 2017; problems associated with ageing infrastructure such as in the offshore industry and emerging new risks such as nanotechnology, climate change and terrorism.

  44.  Adequate resourcing is also required to cover HSE's new areas of responsibility, including: gangmaster licensing; adventure activity licensing; generic design assessment for new nuclear power plants; human and animal pathogens; and as the "competent authority" for REACH.

  45.  If HSE are required to continue with generic design assessments (GDA) work within the timescales envisaged, they need to be resourced to be able to recruit sufficient qualified personnel to carry out the work. HSE's 2007 paper to HSC (HSC/07/68) reported "Resourcing for Step 3 and beyond poses a significant risk to the completion of GDAs within the original 3.5 year timescale unless significant recruitment of the right calibre of staff is achieved in a relatively short period."

  46.  In terms of efficiency, we think a unified enforcement authority (HSE and LAs) would provide a more efficient delivery system; however, as a minimum, we believe that "ring-fencing" of the LA funding for health and safety enforcement would help ensure better resourcing. We also hope that the newly merged and relocated HSE will bring greater efficiencies in the overall governance and operation of the organisation as a whole.

Recommendations

  47.  There should be a phased and eventual doubling of the numbers of front line inspectors to help ensure adequate awareness raising, advice provision, inspection and enforcement.

  48.  There should be more investment in gathering exposure data for hazardous substances and the updating and development of a national database of exposures and controls.

INSPECTION, ENFORCEMENT AND PROSECUTIONS

What impact has the reduction in inspection rates had on standards of occupational H&S?

  49.  The conclusions of a 2004 HSE Research Report 1968 include: "The application of enforcement is an effective means of securing compliance, creating an incentive for selfcompliance and a fear of adverse business impacts such as reputational damage in all sectors and sizes, including major hazard sectors."

  50.  Although we do not have "cause and effect" data and so cannot conclude that one necessarily led to the other, the reduced levels of inspection seem to have coincided with a recent increase in fatal accidents and worsening of rates of musculoskeletal disorders and stress.

  51.  We think it seems likely that a reduction in inspection rates could adversely affect health and safety standards, as we believe that a perception by rogue employers that they "may get caught" can act as a deterrent, while a feeling that they'll `never be caught' could encourage risk-taking. Inspected workplaces will benefit from awareness-raising and any resulting improvements that are made.

Recommendations

  52.  See above re: increased number of inspectors and ring-fencing [paragraphs 11, 12 and 45].

Does HSE get the balance right between prevention and enforcement?

  53.  Again, referring to RR196,8 the researchers conclude that: "There is strong evidence to support the continuation of a balanced mixture of advice (persuasion), enforcement and business incentives." Accepting the researchers finding, "As the fear of enforcement is a significant motivator for organisations . . .", we feel that any diminution in employers' perception of the likelihood of enforcement action against them, could reduce this motivation, especially in the unscrupulous.

  54.  While welcoming HSE's increased focus on developing its advisory role (SHADs, Workplace Health Connect, campaigns, etc.) and on appropriate prosecutions, we are concerned that this has seemed to coincide with a reduction in the level of inspections. All aspects are important and we do not feel one should be achieved at the expense of the others; the Government must provide adequately funding for HSE to meet all its statutory requirements.

Recommendations

  55.  See above re: increased number of inspectors and ring-fencing [paragraphs 11, 12 and 45].

Are penalties for health and safety offences proportionate?

  56.  We believe that current fines for health and safety offences generally do not reflect the gravity involved and are insufficiently high to act as a deterrent, for example:

  57.  For HSE in 2006-07, the average fine per conviction was £15,370 (if untypical fines are omitted, this reduces to £8,723) and for Local Authorities (LAs) in 2005-06, the average fine per conviction was £9,674 (if untypical fines are omitted, this reduces to £4,935).9

  58.  For 2004-05 (H&S offences and penalties 2004-05, Table 8), 10 the average fine per case, which may include more than one conviction, following work-related fatalities was £42,795 (data excludes chemicals, mining, railways and offshore).

  59.  These levels of fines are particularly concerning when compared with fines levied in 2007 for "price fixing", with British Airways fined £121.5 million in the UK (plus an additional £148 million in the USA); and several Supermarkets and dairy firms fined a total of £116 million.

Recommendations

  60.  Fine levels should reflect the gravity of the H&S offence and should generally be increased.

Should the removal of its crown immunity be a priority for HSE?

  61.  A 2004 joint review, "Managing Sickness Absence in the Public Sector" by the Ministerial Task Force for Health, Safety and Productivity and the Cabinet Office, reported on Crown Immunity: "The Government has made a commitment to removing Crown Immunity from statutory health and safety enforcement. HSC considers that Crown bodies should share the same form of accountability as other employers as far as possible: statutory enforcement notices, prosecution and fines. The example that departments want to set will not carry full weight unless Crown bodies' risk controls are open to being tested publicly in Employment Tribunals and the courts. Ending Crown Immunity will also sharpen attention on the need for continuous improvement to maintain standards, which are generally sound." 11

  62.  IOSH generally supports the removal of Crown Immunity, except where matters of national security are involved, and we welcomed this aspect of the CM/CH Act 2007. We believe that for corporate accountability and public confidence purposes, the Government should remove Crown Immunity for health and safety offences as soon as practicable.

Recommendations

  63.  Crown Immunity for health and safety offences should generally be removed as soon as practicable, except where national security could be compromised.

How effectively do HSE and local authorities interact in their inspection roles?

  64.  In 2003 IOSH called for a unified enforcement agency or failing that, ring-fencing of funding for health and safety enforcement by LAs. Our position remains that a unified enforcement agency would be a more effective and efficient system and that, in its absence, ring-fencing would help protect resources from competing demands.

  65.  The current situation is that HSC / E are working to improve the interaction between themselves and LAs and in 2004 agreed a high-level "statement of intent"12 between HSC, HSE, Local Government Association, Welsh Local Government Association, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services. In May 2006, the Local Government Panel (with LA elected members from England, Scotland and Wales) held its first meeting and now meets twice yearly with HSC. HSE devotes a specific area of their website and Extranet, communication and liaison between HSE and LAs. 13

  66.  An example of how HSE believe their relationship with LAs functions is given in last year's HSC paper HSC/07/17: Disease Reduction Programme—Fit for today, Fit for tomorrow. An example of LA Partnership in practice reported that: "The regulatory approach has been significantly strengthened by our partnership with Local Authorities. This is crucial to the successful delivery of the DRP. LAs across the country have worked with us to launch the Skin Disease Hairdressing campaign `Bad Hand Day?' and they will be following this up with enforcement visits. There has also been significant support from LAs to work in partnership with the DRP on implementing the asbestos `Duty to Manage' Regulations." It also explains that: "Like Fit3, DRP delivery is heavily reliant on significant LA involvement and FOD delivery. These resources are limited and constrained by other priorities. DRP contributes to the training and other briefing material that Fit3 is able to provide."

Recommendations

  67.  See above re: unified enforcement authority, ring-fencing and HSE's relationship with LBRO [paragraphs 11 and 14].

HAZARDOUS OCCUPATIONS

Is HSE doing enough to improve health and safety standards in hazardous occupations?

  68. It was concerning to see reported (HSC/06/75) that resource limitations had a detrimental impact on several important HSC / E areas in 2006-07 (competition of ideas, cancer research, major hazards, WHC South East, and other frontline / regulatory work). There were various reasons given for this, including: that HSE went into this year over-committed; the cost of the Buncefield investigation; and a deliberate strategy to devote more to its programme "Fit3".

  69.  We are also concerned to note that staffing of the Hazardous Installations Directorate has decreased from 615 in April 2003 to 536 in April 2007.

Is HSE doing enough to tackle the rise in fatalities in the construction industry?

  70.  Overall we do not believe HSE is doing enough to tackle the rise in fatalities in the construction industry, which concerningly saw the number of deaths in 2006-07 increase by 28%, from 60 to 77. Falls from height are still the main cause of fatal accidents (23 deaths), with a further 16 due to being hit by a moving or falling object and 10 from contact with electricity. We also know that construction workers are at risk of developing fatal diseases associated with exposure to asbestos and silica, so such risks need to be eliminated or minimised.

  71.  Looking at the background to enforcement provision in this sector, 2002 saw HSE launch a new Construction Division (ConD) to secure for the first time, the deployment of HSE's construction resource under the direct management of the Chief Inspector of Construction. It was intended that by the end of its first year, it would have 138 dedicated construction inspectors (augmented by 12 staff years in other FOD Division). However, the number has only ever reached 134 front line construction inspectors (in 2005-06) and concerningly, this number is forecast to drop to 125 after March 2008.

  72.  IOSH recognises and welcomes joint initiatives such as Working Well Together and the Construction Summits in 2001 and 2005, and also schemes for delivering occupational health services to the sector, such as Constructing Better Health and Workplace Health Connect. Since the Construction Summit of 2001, HSE has carried out a number of "construction blitzes" (2002, 2003, 2005 and more recently 2007), targeting construction sites for an intensive period of "spot inspections". All of these have revealed a worrying state of non-compliance and risktaking in our construction industry. For example, in 2003 1,429 sites were inspected, and a third found to be well below standard, with 414 enforcement notices being served. More recently, in 2007, 1,500 inspections were carried out, and nearly one in three construction refurbishment sites were found to put workers at risk; 426 were given enforcement notices and 244 of these needed to stop work immediately because of the risk level.

  73.  The IOSH Construction Group was pleased to attend the Construction Forum in September 2007, hosted by the Work and Pensions Secretary, Rt Hon Peter Hain MP. The Forum was attended by Government, the HSE, IOSH, trade unions, industry bodies, suppliers, and contractors and launched the "Framework for Action" to be monitored by the Strategic Forum for Construction Health and Safety Task Group, chaired by John Spanswick. Key areas for action agreed at the Forum include: sharing best practice; raising levels of competence; encouraging worker involvement; integrated working; and steps to drive out the informal economy in the sector, which can impact health and safety.

  74.  IOSH welcomed recently updated legislation on the control of asbestos, silica and working at height; the new Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM 2007); and the new Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act. We would urge that awareness is raised in all these areas and also that they are adequately enforced. The IOSH Construction Group made considerable contributions to the CONIAC industry guidance in support of CDM 2007 and the Group is always keen to be involved in helping to improve the health and safety of the construction sector.

  75.  HSE needs adequate resources to enable it to do more in this important and hazardous sector. Research (RR196)8 has found that enforcement (inspection) can generally help to ensure compliance and the successive "blitzes" carried out by HSE show how much this is needed and how much non-compliance there is. This inspection and education approach is labour intensive, so without the resources cannot happen.

Recommendations

  76.  An increase in the HSE Construction Division frontline inspection team (a phased and eventual doubling in numbers).

  77.  An increase in the frequency of construction sector inspection blitzes, together with awarenessraising and education, until there are signs of an overall improvement.

  78.  An extension of "Gangmaster Licensing" to the construction industry.

  79.  Targeting awareness, education and enforcement for Clients and CDM-Co-ordinators, to ensure that safe construction management is led by those with the greatest influence before and during construction. This is particularly important where government departments are Clients and can act as exemplars.

  80.  HSE should engage with other stakeholders to reach all parts of the industry, such as the IOSH Construction Group, which has over 8,500 members working in the UK and abroad.

Is HSE doing enough to tackle offshore health and safety risks in the oil and gas industry?

  81.  Overall, while recognising the positive steps taken and progress made in recent years, we do not believe HSE is doing enough to minimise offshore health and safety risks in the oil and gas industry, due more to lack of suitable resources than to any suboptimal targeting of effort.

  82.  Disappointingly, after ensuring no workers were killed in 2004-05, two were killed on installations in each of the last two years and there were multi-fatality marine and aviation accidents directly linked to offshore operations. The number of over three-day injuries increased by 31%, though this represents a relatively small increase in the rate (7.4%), as the workforce has increased by 22% (provisional figures).

  83.  The Hazardous Installations Directorate's Offshore Division (OSD) covers offshore health and safety risks in the oil and gas industry. Particular issues are the ageing infrastructure and workforce and the fact that smaller fields and fields that were previously regarded as technically too difficult to exploit are now being used. OSD's website14 outlines their Key Programmes targeting specific issues and contributing towards the HSC/E strategy for the workplace. They also provide a series of safety alerts / notices eg advice on interlocks for drill floor machinery and a number of these have been converted into information sheets.

  84.  The HSC's 2006-07 mid-year review of its business plan (HSC/06/75) reports that some lower priority work in the major hazards area (chemicals, offshore and nuclear sectors) has had to be delayed due to limitations on resources and other pressures. It indicated that the projected annual outturn statistics for the "major hazards incident precursors" based on results at midyear, show a slightly worrying upturn from a target of 67 to a figure of 70, though it was too early to say how significant this was. Also an OSD key programme (KP3) addressing offshore's installation integrity, found " . . . fundamental deficiencies in duty holders audit and monitoring systems." In more than half the installations inspected the physical state of the plant was considered poor. Another notable finding was that performance varied significantly between installations, including those with the same duty holder. This would suggest that acceptable performance is dependent more on individuals than on a systems approach, which should not be the case in a permissioning regime, ie where safety cases are used as the basis for setting operational standards.

  85.  IOSH welcomes the intended inclusion of inspection of offshore companies' internal assurance processes in HSE's Offshore Intervention Strategy for 2007-08, but this will need to be adequately resourced. We note that HSE anticipated the 2006 introduction of the "new offshore safety case regime" would allow movement of resources from assessment to OSD's key programmes and also the implementation of a structured inspection programme, targeted at deck and drilling operations on all offshore installations. However, as the offshore workforce last year increased by 22%, we believe this should also be factored into the inspectorate equation. In addition, the worldwide need for competent and experienced upstream personnel makes staff retention and development a continuing challenge for HSE.

  86.  IOSH welcomes HSE's recent statement on the need for ensuring competence from those who provide external health and safety support, but were disappointed that it fails to indicate qualification levels. In the context of an offshore industry with many new entrant organisations and global shortages of competent and experienced people, we suggest clear advice is needed from OSD about ways to ensure appointed health and safety advisers have suitable qualifications, experience and CPD for this sector, and this could be provided in Safety Case assessment guidance. Proactive advice in this area would go some way to supporting the OSD and helping bridge the resource gap.

  87.  HSE needs adequate resources to enable it to do more in this important major hazards sector. Both HSE and IOSH are active in supporting "Step Change", which targets sector-wide voluntary improvements, but believe these need to be supported by robust, targeted, proportionate and well-resourced enforcement activities. Research (RR196)8 has found that inspection / enforcement can help ensure compliance generally and we know that OSD's key programmes involving targeted inspections, revealed deficiencies in audit and monitoring systems—particularly concerning as this contributed to the 1988 Piper Alpha disaster which killed 167 people and the root causes of which many in the industry may no longer recall 20 years later. This inspection and education approach is labour intensive and without the resources cannot happen.

Recommendations

  88.  Understanding that some lower priority offshore work was delayed last year due to resource limitations, we recommend that this situation is remedied as soon as possible.

  89.  HSE need to retain experienced staff and so remuneration packages should be sufficiently competitive for this.

  90.  There should be adequate resourcing of the HSE's Offshore Intervention Strategy, to cover inspection of offshore companies' internal assurance processes by suitably experienced Inspectors.

  91.  HSE should continue structured inspection programmes, covering proven high-risk areas, eg deck and drilling operations, cargo handling, re-engineered and merged organisations, etc.

  92.  HSE should provide clearer guidance on how to ensure appointed health and safety advisers have suitable qualifications, experience and CPD for this sector.

MIGRANT WORKERS

Are migrant workers more at risk of occupational accidents? Does HSE do enough to protect migrant workers from health and safety risks?

  93.  In 2005, HSE commissioned research (RR 502) 16 from London Metropolitan University to assess the health and safety risks to migrant workers. Among the findings were that they are more likely to be working in sectors or occupations where there are existing health and safety concerns and that their status as new workers may place them at added risk. The research was commissioned because of the apparent rise in evidence of poor standards in migrant working conditions, highlighted by the Morecambe Bay incident in February 2004, that were not clearly reflected in an increase in complaints or reports to HSE under RIDDOR. In addition the incident rates in industries where migrant employment is highest, including the agriculture and construction sectors, failed to show the expected increase in incident numbers that could be attributed to the influx of a significant migrant worker population.

  94. The project involved interviews with 200 migrant workers in five regions of England and Wales and considered whether the position that recent migrant workers occupy within the labour market puts their health and safety at increased risk, in comparison with other workers in similar positions. The research findings suggested that it is not the case that the risks inherent in a particular type of work only present themselves in relation to migrant workers. However, what it does reveal is that migrants are more likely to be working in sectors or occupations where there are existing health and safety concerns and that it is their status as new workers that may place them at added risk, due to their relatively short periods of work in the UK and limited knowledge of the UK's health and safety system. The report also notes that migrant motivations in coming to the UK, particularly where these are based on earning as much as possible in the shortest possible time, add to their risk factors and that limited means of communication between migrant workers and indigenous supervisors also may place these workers at greater risk.

  95.  The report found that migrant workers may be experiencing higher levels of workplace accidents because they are more likely to work long hours, to work shifts and to have limited understanding of health and safety. Contributory factors also highlighted are communication difficulties and the fact migrants are more likely to take jobs in sectors where they have no experience and have received no previous training. HSE believes that these factors are relevant to other vulnerable groups of workers as well, and is seeking to co-ordinate its efforts to ensure improved health and safety protection for all concerned.

  96.  To tackle the issues raised by the findings, the research has recommended better-targeted HSE / LA inspection, enforcement and supporting activity as well as greater provision of targeted health and safety advice and support for migrant workers and those who employ them.

Recommendations

  97.  HSE should consider implementing the recommendations from RR 50216 including adapting RIDDOR to gather more specific data on migrant workers.

  98.  See above on extending "Gangmaster Licensing" to construction [paragraph 76]

  99.  HSE should consider distribution of relevant health and safety information for migrant workers via "free newspapers"; supermarkets; health, community and refugee centres, for example promoting the leaflet "Your Health, Your Safety" (which emphasises that health and safety is independent of immigration status and clarifies the responsibilities of employers and agencies).

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH

What must HSE do to meet its PSA targets for ill health and days lost per worker?

  100.  We note that HSE are not on track to meet their PSA targets or the revitalising health and safety targets to reduce the incidence work related ill health and the number of days lost per worker. Although self-reported work-related stress and musculoskeletal disorders showed a fall in the five years from 2001, the levels in 2006-07 reached similar levels to 2001, with MSDs reaching a higher incidence rate than in 2001. The days lost to ill health have risen in the last year, back up to 30 million days, a similar level to 2003-04, after falling for the previous five years.

  101.  We believe further analysis is required to understand and address the reasons for the sudden rise in self-reported work-related ill health between 2005-06 and 2006-07.

Recommendations

  102.  HSE should conduct analysis to establish possible reasons for the increase in self-reported ill health and the number of days lost per worker and to determine appropriate action.

  103.  HSE needs to continue its work to promote prevention of MSDs and stress and a multidisciplinary approach within the workplace.

Does HSE do enough to embed vocational rehabilitation in the workplace?

  104.  HSE can promote an evidence-based approach and encourage employers to prevent illness and injuries from developing and to support those who have impairments so that they can return to work in a safe and healthy way. We think the emphasis should be on good management, worker involvement, flexible working arrangements, reasonable adjustments, competent advice and a multidisciplinary approach. HSE should continue to provide information and guidance such as the "Health and safety in health and social care services" section17 and could consider developing similar web-based information for other sectors.

  105.  HSE could also support the IOSH position on better multidisciplinary working, with a key role for OSH practitioners in supporting the Health, Work and Wellbeing Strategy, helping to raise awareness in employers and workers and facilitating dialogue and improvements, and assisting in the evaluation of interventions.

  106.  HSE should continue to promote the availability of occupational health provision such as Workplace Health Connect, Healthy Working Lives, Constructing Better Health and NHS Plus.

  107.  There should also be adequate training and resourcing of the HSE to help prevent exposures to work-related health hazards through awareness raising, advice and enforcement.

Recommendations

  108.  HSE should promote an evidence-based and multidisciplinary approach to H&S interventions.

  109.  HSE should continue to emphasise the need for, and benefits of, good management and prevention; worker involvement; and access to competent advice.

  110.  HSE should consider producing other sector guidance similar to their public services pages.

  111.  HSE / LA front-line staff should receive further training as required on occupational health and rehabilitation issues.

REFERENCES

1.  www.hse.gov.uk/aboutus/reports/performance/performance2006.pdf

2.  www.hse.gov.uk/simplification/influencing.htm

3.  Harper B, 2001, A comparison of the national and organisational structures for health and safety in the United Kingdom and Germany, Vol 5 Issue 1, IOSH Services Limited, Wigston

4.  www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrpdf/rr597.pdf

5.  www.hse.gov.uk/simplification/influencing.htm

6.  www.iosh.co.uk/techguide

7.  IOSH response to Proposals for revised policies to address societal risk around onshore nonnuclear major hazard installations (CD212), HSE, 2007, www.iosh.co.uk/condocs (archive)

8.  www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrhtm/rr196.htm

9.  www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/enforce/

10.  www.hse.gov.uk/enforce/off0405/off0405.pdf

11.  www.hse.gov.uk/gse/sickness.pdf

12.  www.hse.gov.uk/lau/lacorshealth.pdf

13.  www.hse.gov.uk/lau/index.htm

14.  www.hse.gov.uk/offshore/index.htm

15.  www.hse.gov.uk/chemicals/reach.htm

16.  www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrhtm/rr502.htm

17.  www.hse.gov.uk/healthservices/index.htm





 
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