October 2010 saw the introduction of the Equality Act 2010. This replaced various pieces of employment legislation including the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. Disability is one of nine potential “protected characteristics” for which a person cannot be treated less favourably than other people. Although mainly a consolidation of previous rights into a single Act, there are some new implications for employers. In terms of health and safety, the principal change is to outlaw pre-employment medical questionnaires in most circumstances.
Targeted questions are still permitted in limited situations, i.e. where it is relevant and necessary for the job. An example would be to establish whether an applicant for a role involving heavy lifting had a history of back injuries.
Note general enquiries including those concerning attendance records are not acceptable. This is because absence may be related to disability and to select the person with the best attendance may discriminate against a disabled applicant.
By 1 April 2011, all first-aid training materials must be changed to reflect the new protocols adopted by the Resuscitation Council. They must reflect the following changes in basic life support guidelines which have been made to reflect the importance placed on chest compression, particularly good quality compressions, and to attempt to reduce the number and duration of pauses in chest compression:
- When obtaining help, ask for an automated external defibrillator (AED), if one is available.
- Compress the chest to a depth of 5-6 cm and at a rate of 100-120 min-1.
- Give each rescue breath over1s rather than 2s.
- Do not stop to check the victim or discontinue CPR unless the victim starts to show signs of regaining consciousness, such as coughing, opening his eyes, speaking, or moving purposefully AND starts to breathe normally.
- Teach CPR to laypeople with an emphasis on chest compression, but include ventilation as the standard, particularly for those with a duty of care.
The full guidance can be found at: www.resus.org.uk/pages/bls.pdf
As trailed in the last edition of PHSC’s newsletter, Lord Young of Graffham produced a report into health and safety regulation and practice, entitled Common Sense – Common Safety. His Lordship, who has since resigned from his role as Special Advisor, starts the report by explaining that “a compensation culture driven by litigation is at the heart of the problems…”
He goes on to recount examples of where some health and safety rules have been applied “in the most absurd manner”, and castigates some “often unqualified safety consultants” for failing to follow a “reasonably practicable” approach as required by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
Some of the recommendations are:
- to simplify claims procedures
- restrict promotion of “no win – no fee” services
- reduce the burden on low risk workplaces
- introduce a register of safety consultants
- consolidate certain legislation
- require local authorities to properly justify any events they ban
- change accident reporting criteria to over seven day incapacity from over three day at present (but note that the current reporting regime remains in force unless and until changes are announced)
The proposed safety consultant register is welcomed by most of the profession and indeed professional bodies within the sector have been working towards self-regulation for some time. It is hoped that the register will be operational by early February 2011.
Conservative Minister Chris Grayling told Parliament that he is “considering HSE’s proposals for delivering a renewed and effective health and safety regulatory service”.
This followed announcement of a 35% reduction in HSE’s funding, and the recommendations made by Lord Young. Grayling indicated that the intention is to concentrate on higher risk businesses and to recover the costs arising from reviewing or advising on those activities. In addition, where there has been an intervention due to an employer’s failure, this may result in a financial penalty outside of the court system. For example, where some sort of enforcement action has taken place such as issue of a Prohibition Notice, a penalty charge may be levied.
Mr Grayling also explained that HSE will conduct a formal consultation on any proposals to amend the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR). This will involve an impact assessment to consider the costs and benefits of any proposed change.
However, given Lord Young’s stated view on the matter it is now inevitable that RIDDOR will be amended to relax the reporting requirements.
Peterborough Crown Court heard that a Lithuanian worker sustained crush injuries that led to his death on his first day in a new job. The incident at the St Neots premises of Arken PoP Limited, a firm that provides retail display stands, happened when glass was being unloaded from a shipping container. A stack of sheets each weighing around 100kg fell on the 29-year-old worker.
Fines and costs of almost £100,000 were levied under S3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 when the company admitted failure to train staff and having no safe system of work.
The Ministry of Defence were given a Crown Censure after failure to follow advice in an asbestos survey. Together with their facilities management contractor, Interserve (Defence) Limited, they allowed workers to enter a boiler room known to be contaminated with asbestos.
A year previously, the report recommended access to the boiler room at a base in Oxfordshire be restricted until the material had been removed. Interserve were ordered to pay fines and costs of around £51,000.
On the day that Lord Young’s report into the “compensation culture” was published, Belfast City Council worker Lorraine Mallon agreed a settlement of £24,000 from her employer.
Dressed as a tomato, she was leap-frogged by the lord mayor, Mr Rodgers, suffering a slipped disc when his knee hit her head. Ms Mallon had been dressed like this to launch a gourmet garden event. The council must also pay the costs of the action.
After a plumber was exposed to asbestos, Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council admitted a breach of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 at Nuneaton Magistrates’ Court and paid £7,000 in fines and costs.
Their employee had been sent to fix a leak at Craddock Court, a sheltered accommodation complex, and had to cut through an asbestos insulation board with a saw. He was sawing for 20 minutes, and was covered in dust for which he had no protective clothing or equipment. The council blamed a communication problem.
Editha Bayliss, an employee of printers Sirane Ltd of Telford, lost her fingertips when she was trying to clear a blockage on an automatic guillotine. Telford Magistrates fined the company £6,000 plus £2,800 costs for breaching the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. It was noted that a risk assessment four months before the accident had identified the need for improved guarding.
Northwich Magistrates fined newsagent chain Martin McColl £5,000 with a similar amount in costs, after a robbery at their Winsford, Cheshire shop. The Court heard that despite a history of problems that included robbery, no risk assessment had been made.
An assessment may have led to measures that could have prevented a serious assault to a female manager, knocked unconscious during the latest incident.