Upstream - The Newsletter of Incentive FM Group

Health & Safety

New Health Safety Legislation
April and October are the two ‘Common Commencement Dates’ for any new health and safety legislation. No new legislation with any relevance to the Incentive FM Group is due to come into force in April 2012.

Health & Safety Executive Developments (HSE)
Budget cuts of around 35% will lead to significant changes in the way the HSE goes about its business in 2012 and onwards. In the past the HSE has devoted around 60% of its time to pro-actively helping employers to comply with H&S laws and 40% reactively on enforcement action. The budget cuts will mean the emphasis will be more on enforcement, taking up 80% of their time with just 20% on pro-active assistance.

In addition the HSE are planning to recover the costs of their interventions. The underlying principle has already been agreed with the Government and this new scheme could apply from April 2012, subject to legislation being passed. If during an inspection or investigation a failure to adhere to health and safety law identified by an inspector as requiring formal action is discovered, costs would be recovered. Fees would apply up to the point where HSE's intervention in supporting businesses in putting matters right has concluded.

Law-abiding businesses will be free from costs and will not have to pay a penny. Under the proposals, HSE will recover costs at current estimates of £133 per hour. Costs of any specialist support needed by HSE would also be passed on. Invoices will need to be paid in 30 days.

Löfstedt Review
Professor Löfstedt has published findings of the review commissioned by the Government to reduce the burden of H&S on employers. His general view is that the problem lies less with the regulations themselves, but more with the way they are interpreted and applied. In some cases this has promoted unnecessary paperwork and a focus on health and safety activities that goes above and beyond the regulatory requirements.

The key recommendations are:

1. Exempting those self-employed whose work activities pose no potential risk or harm to others from health and safety law
2. The HSE should review all its Approved Code of Practice by June 2012.
3. The HSE undertakes a programme of sector-specific consolidations to be completed by April 2015.
4. That legislation is changed to give HSE the authority to direct all local authority health and safety inspection and enforcement activity. This will ensure that it is consistent and targeted towards the most risky workplaces.
5. That the original intention of the pre-action protocol standard disclosure list is clarified and restated and that regulatory provisions that impose strict liability should be reviewed by June 2013.

Les Carter’s personal views:
Don’t expect any radical change, the problem lies with how our existing laws are interpreted and applied. H&S laws have been distorted and overplayed by people with poor understanding, some of whom are working in positions of influence within large organisations.

If something seems absurd and unnecessary then it is not what the law requires. To help rebut these H&S myths, the HSE are setting up a disputes panel dedicated to disproving myths which bring H&S into disrepute and take valuable time away from the real issues.

Water Systems - Leigonella Bacteria – Why Bother?
The deaths of 3 British tourists after contracting Legionnaires’ disease from the water system in their Spanish hotel reminds us of how important it is to look after the water systems in our contracts. A total of 20 guests at the hotel contracted the disease but the stronger, fitter ones recovered.

The disease is contracted by inhaling droplets of infected water which are small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs. The incubation period is around 10 days and older people as well as those with weak immune systems or lung problems are most susceptible.

Usually multiple deaths from Legionaires disease are caused by the large wet air conditioning systems with cooling towers on the roofs of buildings. But in reality domestic water systems cause more deaths in total but go largely unreported because they are usually just individual deaths.

To prevent legionaires disease make sure:

1. A risk assessment of the water system has been carried out and any remedial measures are implemented.
2. Water storage tanks are clean and sealed.
3. Any little used outlets are identified and flushed weekly.
4. Water temperatures are checked to ensure they are in the safe zones (hot above 50 deg C & cold below 20 deg C)
5. Shower heads are cleaned and disinfected quarterly.

Contractors - Unsafe Behaviour
A couple of pictures below show how the safe water–fed pole method of window cleaning can be made quite hazardous. (Neither of these has anything to do with IFM or IQAS and were caught on camera whilst passing by.)

Were these methods authorised by the company involved or was it the workers making it easier for themselves?

These situations highlight the need for the monitoring of contractors to ensure they follow safe working practices. You can bet the risk assessments provided for the clients did not say ‘climb on the nearby flat roof’ or ‘stand on top of the van’.

More Senior Managers Prosecuted for Health & Safety Failings
Section 37 of the HASAW Act provides for the prosecution of directors and senior managers where an H&S offence is committed with their consent, connivance or neglect. Although not a huge number (43 last year) it has risen by more than 400% in the last 5 years. This stems from guidance issued to HSE inspectors in 2008 emphasising the need to consider personal prosecutions where it was clear that directors and senior managers failed in their duties. Most punishments were fines of between £3000 & £20,000 but there were also two prison sentences and two community service orders passed.