Obtaining a proportionate balance in implementing risk assessments and enforcing health and safety restrictions within the workplace has come under close scrutiny in recent years.
Yet, while a majority of company employers around the UK are keen to ensure a healthy and safe working environment for their employees, accident claims for significant injury compensation as result of serious negligence or lack of training continues to be reported.
Between April 2011 and March 2012, the total number of fatalities in the workplace had reduced only slightly from 175 to 173 and a total of 22,433 major injuries were reported, the most common type of accident involving slips or trips (40 per cent), and falls from a height (14 per cent).
However, at the same time, the media also continue to report instances where regimes of unnecessary and extreme caution are put into place citing “health and safety” reasons. Even the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) have taken to publishing eyebrow raising examples of health and safety myths on their own website.
The cumulative effect is only likely to undermine genuine and essential risk assessment and procedure enforcement still found wanting in many workplaces inspected by HSE.
To this end, HSE have just introduced a statutory National Enforcement Code aimed at local authorities to ban unnecessary health and safety inspections. Instead, they are directed to “target proactive council inspections on higher risk activities in specified sectors” or when there is sufficient knowledge of workplaces, which could cause risk to employees or members of the public.
According to Minister for Employment Mark Hoban, “We need health and safety that protects people where there are real risks ...there are too many examples of local councils imposing unnecessary burdens by inspecting low risk businesses...”
HSE have issued a list of activities/sectors for proactive inspection by local authorities, including :
Fatalities / injuries resulting from falls from height / amputation and crushing injuries
Industrial retail/wholesale premises e.g. steel stockholders, builders / timber merchants.
- Workplace transport / work at height / cutting machinery / lifting equipment.
Falls from height
High volume Warehousing/Distribution
- Work at height
Fatalities/injuries resulting from being struck by vehicles
Small business Tyre fitters / MVR (as part of Car Sales) / High volume Warehousing/Distribution.
- Use of two-post vehicle lifts / Workplace transport.
Industrial diseases (occupational asthma/deafness)
Small business MVR (as part of Car Sales) / Industrial retail/wholesale premises e.g. steel stockholders, builders/timber merchants.
- Use of Isocyanate paints / Noise and dust.
Premises with cooling towers/evaporative condensers.
- Lack of suitable legionella control measures.
Carbon monoxide poisoning
Commercial catering premises using solid fuel cooking equipment.
- Lack of suitable ventilation and/or unsafe appliances.