HSE launches new investigation criteria

The
Health and Safety Executive has launched its new criteria on when to
investigate the breach of health and safety law.

The
policy states that a prosecution should normally take place in any one of a
number of circumstances, including:


When a workplace death is caused by a breach of the law
– If there has been reckless disregard of health and safety requirements
– If the offender’s standard of health and safety management is far below what
is required.

Decisions
on whether to investigate a workplace incident must take account of a number
of  factors, including:


The severity and scale of potential – as well as actual – harm
– The offender’s previous health and safety record
– The wider relevance of the incident, including the public concern it causes

The
HSC’s policy also requires all of Britain’s enforcing authorities and their
inspectors to:


Ensure they consider the role of the management chain, and individual directors
and managers, in any possible offences – and take enforcement action against
them if the evidence shows this is justified


Notify the director of an offending organisation each time the enforcing
authority issues an improvement notice, prohibition notice or takes a
prosecution against that organisation


Publicise annually the names of all organisations and individuals convicted of
health and safety offences over the previous 12 months, as well as similar
information regarding all improvement and prohibition notices issued over the
same period


Publicise the decision-making process so that everyone can understand how the
enforcement policy will work in practice. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
has already developed a model for achieving this, which will be finalised
shortly and also be used by local authority inspectors.

HSC
Chair Bill Callaghan said: “Our main concern is for accidents not to happen in
the first place – and therefore much of the enforcing authorities’ activity is
designed to encourage employers to assess risks properly and take relevant
preventive measures. But when serious incidents do occur,  we must have an effective framework within
which appropriate enforcement action can take place.

“The
policy demonstrates to employers, workers and all other interested parties what
they can expect from the enforcers – and how the watchdogs should respond to
serious workplace incidents. The standards should be the same, regardless of
the inspector, enforcing authority or the sector of industry involved.”

Callaghan
emphasised the need to hold employers accountable for their organisations’
health and safety performance. He said: “Most employers do treat health and
safety as a priority. But there are still too many who don’t, with tragic
consequences. In particular, inspectors must 
consider carefully the role of individual managers and directors when
serious failures do occur – and ensure that appropriate action is taken against
them if the evidence justifies it. 

“The
HSC relies on the co-operation of responsible bosses to safeguard the health
and safety of Britain’s workforce and tries to give every encouragement for
them to do so. Last year we published good practice guidance for directors of
public and private sector bodies.

Building
on this, we now expect the authorities to notify directors whenever formal
enforcement action is taken against their organisation.”

Callaghan
concluded with a warning to negligent employers: “Now, more than ever, there is
no excuse for those at the top to be ignorant of their responsibilities or to
fail to take effective action. If you cannot manage health and safety, then you
cannot manage.” 

In
order to ensure its continuing effectiveness, the enforcement policy will be
monitored over the next five years and reviewed by the HSC.

The
enforcement policy statement can be viewed at www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/hsc15.pdf

By Ben Willmott

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