Well, here we are over half way through 2018, and the year has seen some important updates to UK health & Safety. But have business leaders been paying attention?

More than ever, complying with health and safety legislation must be a high priority for any business owner in 2018. Failure to have the correct protections in place could result in injury or even loss of life, as well as imprisonment for responsible persons. Link this to reputation damage and potential business loss, and the moral, legal and financial argument is stronger than ever.

The Helping Great Britain Work Well initiative from the government seems to indicate that 2018 is going to be more about preventative action and best practice sharing, rather than rigorous enforcement.

Don’t be lulled into a sense of complacency regarding Brexit though. The HSE will still be responsible for ensuring the UK’s workplaces are safe and continue to comply with both UK and EU law. The Helping GB Work Well document is designed to refresh the current HSE legislation and ensure its Brexit-ready.  This is going to be a key working practice framework for all UK businesses, so it’s important to ensure you are familiar with the concepts, which are, in brief:

  • Acting together, ensuring businesses take more responsibility for Health and Safety with more specific regulations to protect both workers and visitors.
  • Tackling ill health, identifying and dealing with the causes of work-related ill health (including mental health issues such as stress).
  • Managing risk, simplifying risk management and helping business to grow rather than enforcing greater degrees of legislation on them.
  • Supporting the smaller employers by giving SMEs simple advice so they know what they have to do to comply with the law and current best practices.
  • Keeping pace with change, anticipating and tackling new Health and Safety challenges, especially in evolving industries.
  • Sharing best practice methods, creating a more cohesive Health and Safety strategy that crosses into all workplaces, regardless of sector.

 

2018 Health & Safety Updates So Far

 

The Ionising Radiation Regulations 2017 came into effect on 1 Jan 2018. These relate to any organisations that use X-ray equipment, such as hospitals and dental or veterinary practices, and cover how employers should notify the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that they work with ionising radiation, as well as introducing much stricter annual exposure limits for employees.

 

Responses to appeals against prohibition notions. In February, the Supreme Court ruling in HM Inspector of Health and Safety v Chevron North Sea Ltd offered clarity on how businesses respond to prohibition notices.

The decision means organisations can now launch an appeal against a notice if they are confident they can gather the evidence needed to show that there is no serious risk of personal injury, even if this evidence is not available at the time the appeal against the notice is issued.

Filing an appeal means a postponement in the posting of the prohibition notice on the HSE’s public database pending the outcome of the appeal.

 

ISO 45001:2018, a new International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) regulation, was published in March 2018, placing much greater obligations on businesses to demonstrate that they are complying with best practice when it comes to health and safety and the policies they have in place.  While an ISO is not a mandatory legal requirement, it is designed as a management tool for organisations that are looking to eliminate or minimise the risk of harm, and should be taken as best practice.

 

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New PPE regulation changes will be enforceable from April 2018 placing greater onus on importers, distributors and retailers, who will share the responsibility for providing safe and effective products with manufacturers.  This should mean that fewer lower specification and/or counterfeit goods enter the market, which can only be a good thing when it comes to ensuring the health and safety of UK workers.

 

Tough sentencing is being enforced. It’s now over two years since the new sentencing guidelines were introduced for health and safety offences in the UK and it seems that courts were not reluctant to impose very large fines for health & safety failings in 2017.  Some notable fines – for companies such as London and South-eastern Railways (LSER), Iceland Foods Ltd and Warburton’s Ltd – and custodial sentences were given to individuals who were found to have breached health and safety legislation.

 

The guidelines aimed to ensure that fines imposed in such cases were “sufficiently substantial to have a real economic impact which will bring home to both management and shareholders the need to comply with health and safety legislation.”  Over the last year, a number of cases saw fines in excess of £1 million being handed down, including for non-fatal cases.

 

There is more recognition of mental health issues. While there has been legislation in place covering the effects of stress in the workplace for some years; it hasn’t perhaps been as rigorously enforced as it should have been.  With a shifting climate that now puts greater emphasis on mental health and well-being, HSE will be looking closely at how working environments can trigger or even exacerbate existing mental health issues such as stress, and what businesses can do to prevent this.

 

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Preparation for the impact of Brexit. Don’t expect a wholesale change in Health and Safety legislation, even after the final Brexit leave date in 2019.  The vast majority of current legislation (whether EU or UK) will be grandfathered into the EU Withdrawal Bill (Repeal Bill) 2017-19, which has basically copied and pasted all current EU safety legislation into our future UK laws. There may be fewer new bills and regulations introduced during 2018, but fundamentally for anyone involved in Health and Safety, its business as usual.

 

Exports; Remember, if your company exports products or provides services to the EU, they will now have to evidence compliance with both UK & EU Legislation. Its now double the job!