Do we need a review of Health & Safety Legislation?

Lord Young has finally been brought in to carry out a review of Health & Safety Legislation and the so called ubiquitous “Compensation Culture” that seems to plague our very existence.
Before I comment, I would ask you to read the following extract from Lord Young’s announcement:
Prime Minister David Cameron has appointed former cabinet minister Lord Young to lead a Whitehall-wide review of health and safety legislation and the rise of the so-called compensation culture.
The announcement puts on a formal footing Lord Young’s work towards a report on the nation’s health and safety system, which he was asked last December to prepare for the Conservatives in opposition. In his revamped role as adviser to the Prime Minister on health and safety law and practice, Lord Young will report to Mr Cameron in the summer and will then work with the relevant government departments to bring his proposals into effect. “The rise of the compensation culture over the last 10 years is a real concern, as is the way health and safety rules are sometimes applied,” said Mr Cameron. “We need a sensible new approach that makes clear these laws are intended to protect people, not overwhelm businesses with red tape.”
Welcoming his new role, Lord Young, who served as trade and industry secretary under Margaret Thatcher, emphasised that while health and safety regulation is essential in many industries, “it may well have been applied too generally and have become an unnecessary burden” on firms, community organisations and public services.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, he said that over the past 10 to 12 years a “nanny state” had developed. “There is no question, in any dangerous occupation, in any place where people are in danger, health and safety rules will apply. But there are so many parts of life where it is an absolute nonsense. If there were still music halls, it would be a music hall joke.”
Unions immediately criticised the review’s remit and its business-centric approach. “This will not be an open and frank review aimed at achieving better regulation,” said TUC general secretary Brendan Barber. “Instead it is an attempt to undermine the already limited protection that workers have by focusing on the needs of business.”
He added that it was surprising that the review was looking at the compensation culture yet again, when research has repeatedly shown there is no such thing.“Rather than focusing solely on the ‘needs of business’, the Government should protect workers by increasing inspections and enforcement action against employers who put their staff at risk by ignoring existing laws, as well as introducing a legal duty on directors to protect their workers,” he said.
Mitchell Winter Head of Practice comments:
The appointment of Lord Young to review Health & Safety legislation including the so called “compensation culture” and “nanny State” is in my opinion not only unfounded but completely misguided.
The first question we have to ask is, why does business feel so burden by red tape and apparently live in fear of both civil and criminal prosecution?
I feel that it is somewhat ironic that you have chosen to ignore the fact that it was a Conservative Government that led the adoption of the revolutionary introduction of new Health & Safety Regulations in 1992 affectionately known as the “six pack”
To be precise, the “six pack” led by The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1992 (amended 1999) contains the primary requirement for Employers to undertake a series of Risk Assessments, from which non competent and misguided persons have so predictably misinterpreted this requirement leading to the state of confusion, rumours and myths that now exists, including the “conkers bonkers” scenario.
To suggest a review which would no doubt utilise millions of pounds of tax payers money is ridiculous and unfounded. Perhaps Sir you should conduct a review to ensure the correct interpretation and application of the very same Regulations your Party introduced.
So as to ensure you are aware of the bigger picture, it should be asked why Employers are so fearful of litigation (personal injury claims and criminal prosecution) and why we now live in such a litigious society. Most people consider we follow the American model and culture which could not be further from the truth.
It is a direct consequence of the abolition of legal aid here in the UK for the majority of personal injury claims and to my limited knowledge first tabled by your Party and introduced in 1998 effective year 2000.
This abolition has led to an explosion of so called Personal Injury Lawyers who occupy most of the media with an ubiquitous advertising slogan “have you had an accident at work?” & “No win No Fee” so who can blame the public for taking advantage of such a generous offer.
The true objective and general application of Health & Safety is to ensure that Employees, Contractors and the Public are not subjected to unnecessary hazards so as to avoid “harm” for example slips, trips, falls and Manual Handling injuries that cost the NHS millions of pounds each year to treat.
I personally invite Lord Young to spend a day with my Practice to see the effective and appreciated work we do. Let him talk to the Workstation users who praise our efforts to ensure they do not suffer Repetitive Strain Injuries/Work Related Upper Limb Disorders  whilst sitting at a computer for hours on end or the Employers who thank us for increasing productivity and profitability and add value to their business by way of reduced absenteeism and not forgetting the reduced insurance premiums as a consequence of the absence of claims for personal injuries.
Whilst on the subject of Insurance and perhaps of greater consequence is the fact that “Insurers” will need to be consulted about the review as most if not all Insurance Companies currently require the insured to be fully conforming to and with Health & Safety legislation. Failure to do so often invalidates a range of Insurance(s) from Fire damage to personal injury claims.
For the record Sir, hang your baskets, play conkers and encourage your children to go on school trips, learning should be fun.
If you would like to comment please email me direct mitchell@health-safety.net
Mitchell Winter
Head of Practice
Winter & Company Health & Safety Consultants
City of London EC4.
Tel:020 3858 0223.

Premier League Club prosecuted after fall

Club, contractor and director fined after workman falls 3m through roof
Premier League football club Aston Villa has been fined alongside their contractor and a director of the contracting company.
The prosecutions follows an incident in which a workman was injured following a fall through a fragile rooflight during the redevelopment of the club training ground. He fractured bones in his heels was off work for more than six months.
The contractor, Mechanical Cleansing Services, was engaged to drain fuel tanks on a roof during demolition of an old building on the site. Stratford-on-Avon Magistrates heard that the 34-year-old worker was cleaning the tanks and fell through a rooflight as proceeded towards a ladder providing access to the roof. An internal ladder was blocked and a director of the contactor decided to use a leaning ladder to provide access to the plant room on the roof. However, all parties failed to inform workers of the dangers or how to avoid the risk of falling through the fragile rooflights.
HSE inspector Carol Southerd said: “Work at height can be very dangerous if not properly planned and although the victim’s injuries were severe, they could have been much worse. “If the internal ladder had been used, then this incident would not have happened. A simple conversation with the club was all it would have taken to arrange for the blocked ladder to be cleared. “When working at height all workers must have adequate instruction, training and equipment. It is vital that risks are adequately assessed and managed before employees undertake tasks in hazardous locations. There was clear failure to warn the victim or his colleague of the dangerous condition of the roof or to provide safe access to the tank.”

Guests forced to flee hotel fire

A hotel company and its manager have been ordered to pay out more than £40,000 after guests and staff took up to 20 minutes to evacuate the building when a fire broke out.

The owner and the general manager of Park Hotel, in Leicester, both pleaded guilty to ten breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 at Leicester Magistrates Court on 21 May.

The case followed a fire on the first floor of the hotel on 13 August last year, when it was discovered that the fire alarm could not be heard in a basement area of the premises where onsite staff lived. This led to a delay of around 20 minutes for the evacuation of the hotel, the court heard. The blaze was found to have started in a guest’s room but fire-fighters found smoke lingering throughout the premises.

In a follow-up visit in August, inspectors found there was no sounder for the fire alarm in the basement, and most of the fire doors leading onto the stairs and corridor to the first floor were wedged open. Further investigations revealed that there was no evidence of weekly testing of the fire alarm or monthly tests on the emergency lighting, no certification available for the fire extinguishers, and an inadequate fire risk assessment.

On the night of the fire, which the fire service said could have been “extremely serious,” the hotel reception had closed at midnight and did not have a night porter. It was also revealed that prior to the fire, employees of the hotel had raised concerns regarding fire safety on the premises.

The company, represented by one of its directors, Ram Kalra, was fined £29,715 with £8,000 costs while Mr Ratan was fined £2,985 with £380 costs.

3 year old has near miss

An incident in which a three-year-old girl narrowly escaped serious injury when her clothes caught fire from an unguarded space heater has cost a fabric shop owner over £12,000.
The girl suffered minor burns while visiting Christopher Brown’s shop “Brown’s of Burscough” near Preston with her father Andrew Corlett. When Corlett heard his daughter screaming, he quickly removed her burning clothing, injuring his own hands as he did so.
Following a joint investigation by West Lancashire Borough Council and Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, Brown pleaded guilty to two health and safety breaches, as well as several offences under fire safety legislation. At the shop, fire officers found inadequate fire fighting
and detection equipment, and blocked exits and escape routes.
On 19 May, magistrates in Ormskirk fined Brown £1000 for each of four offences under the Fire Safety Order plus £1500 for failing to ensure the safety of the public, contrary to Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act, and a further £1500 under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations. He was also ordered to pay £2394 costs to the council and £3158 to the fire service. “Having a dangerous device like this operating in a shop environment was a clear breach of both fire and health and safety legislation, and presented a real danger to the public,” said the vice chairman of the council’s licensing and appeals committee.

Toddler’s fatal fall

A fatal accident inquiry into the death of a toddler who fell nearly five metres from a first-floor office balcony has recommended a further tightening in building laws.
Ben McCreath, who was 21 months old at the time, died from head injuries after he slipped through a gap in glass panelling on a balcony at the Princes Exchange building in Edinburgh. He was at the offices with his mother, who worked part-time for a law firm in the building. In her determination, Sheriff Mhairi Stephen called for a further review and amendment to the Technical Standards Handbook for compliance with Scottish building standards regulations.
Currently, the so-called 100mm rule (revised in 2007), requires that in and around non-domestic buildings “where the presence of children is anticipated”, gaps in any protective barrier should not be large enough to allow a 100mm diameter sphere to pass through. This is designed to prevent a child’s head from going through any gap. Now Sheriff Stephen wants to see the 100mm rule extended to all non-domestic buildings — not just those where children may be present — to promote certainty, clarity and safety.
“That should be the default setting and designers/architects/developers and their agents would require to show exceptional circumstances to allow any relaxation to that rule,” she said. Sheriff Stephen added that Ben’s mother Louise McCreath could not have been expected to be aware of the hazard presented by the gap, even if she had noticed it.
“Children pull away, wriggle and explore. Louise McCreath was in a familiar environment. She, along with the rest of the Princes Exchange community, were unaware of the gap,” she said. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the relevant handbooks refer to the 100mm provision where buildings are likely to be used by children under five years. Sheriff Stephen makes the point that any alteration to the rule in Scotland will lead to a deviation in practice compared to the rest of the UK.

Crushed to death by lift: snagged cable caused lift to go out of control

An engineer was crushed to death when the lift he was installing went out of control and started moving upwards.

The Old Bailey heard that J. Brown Services Ltd, of Salterns Lane, Fareham, was installing a new lift at an office building near Oxford Street, Central London. The firm had contracted engineer Andy Bates, 35, to complete the wiring for the lift’s control system to get it ready for testing.

Mr Bates was working alone on the roof of the lift when its control cable became wrapped around a bolt protruding from the lift-shaft wall. The cable snagged, which led to a rogue command being sent to the lift’s control box causing the vehicle to start moving upwards. Mr Bates became trapped between the top of the lift car and the top of the doorway as it travelled upwards, suffering fatal crush injuries.

The main contractor for carrying out the work was Swallow Lifts Installations, and it had sub-contracted a specialist lift engineer to do the job. But owing to delays, the sub-contractor had to leave the job uncompleted, so Swallow then sub-contracted the completion of the job to J. Brown Services.

The HSE’s investigation discovered that Mr Bates had no experience of installing the type of lift-control system being fitted at the site. The findings of the investigation were delayed, as it took a long time to establish the reason why the rogue command had been sent to the lift’s controller. It was eventually revealed that a temporary control cable was in use, as the permanent cable had not been wired. The temporary cable was round, whereas a permanent cable is flat and would not have been able to wrap around the bolt, and become snagged.

An HSE inspector said: “The tragic events illustrate the critical importance of having sufficient protective features within a control system.

“Just one fault sent this lift out of control. Completed lifts have many protective features and this principle cannot be ignored when lifts are being constructed. That is why the permanent car-top controls should be used whenever possible, rather than temporary ones.”

J. Brown Services Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974 and was fined £20,000 and £25,000 in costs.

In mitigation, the firm said it regretted the incident and had a previously unblemished health and safety record. Following the incident, the company ceased trading.