BOHS response to Lord Young’s Review of Health and Safety -
Published: 21/07/2010 03:41:05 PM
BOHS welcomed the opportunity to consider and comment upon Lord Young’s governmental review of 'health and safety and the compensation culture' and agrees that this issue is one of growing significance in the public arena which has led to significant loss of confidence in the application of health and safety and its practitioners and regulators. Our response can be read in full here. In summary, we expressed concerns about the balanced application of existing regulations, risk reduction practices and subsequent issue management, and then set out key points on the need to rebalance and refocus around areas representing the highest risk to health and safety, and recommendations for how these might be achieved in practice.
- Media focus has given undue attention to safety issues that are of trivial risk. We note that many of these appear to be related to public safety and arise from poor standards of competence and/or actions focused on perceived risk of legal action rather than real risk to health or safety.
- Conversely, we note that disproportionately less attention has been paid to risks to health from exposures at work that are still a major cause of death and disability in the UK – e.g. 8000 deaths per year from occupational cancer and 13500 cancer registrations associated with work-related exposure to carcinogenic agents. These risks are often poorly understood or managed.
- The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 has had a major impact in reducing occupational accidents. More attention is needed to reduce the burden of chronic ill health arising from exposure risks in the work environment, such as those from chemicals or noise.
- Balancing attention toward prevention of chronic ill health arising from exposure risks will require greater attention to occupational hygiene competencies - skills required to assess and control real risks to health from the work environment. Recognition of occupational hygiene as a core skill and adoption of BOHS Faculty standards of training and competence is now essential.
- The more recent attention focusing on sociological issues and public safety has been problematic. Removing these from the scope of health and safety regulation may help to refocus priorities on the risk for which the Health and Safety at Work Act was originally intended.
- There is a need to rebalance the situation to ensure focus on management of genuine health and safety risks rather than reacting to perceived risks of civil or criminal action. We recommend this is approached as follows:
- Removal of sociological issues and certain aspects of public safety from the scope of the Health and Safety at Work Act and Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in favour of the development of a more appropriate regulatory framework to cover these issues.
- Greater recognition in HSE and Government publications of the diverse and specialist disciplines engaged in health and safety and the competencies in specialist areas, such as those established by the BOHS Faculty of Occupational Hygiene.
- Ensuring that individuals offering consultancy services belong to the appropriate specialist health and safety professional body, i.e. one that operates rigorous qualification schemes, formal assessment systems and evidence of sustainability linked to high quality Continuous Professional Development (CPD) schemes. In the case of occupational hygiene this should the BOHS Faculty of Occupational Hygiene.
- A change in the law to remove the threat of prosecution or litigation where individuals have used competent advisers, have acted in good faith and have taken reasonable actions.
- Action to regulate and clarify the framework for compensation claims to ensure these are successful only where evidence of risk can be determined scientifically in comparison to established norms and standards. An example here would be valid occupational exposure data compared to occupational exposure limits.
- A framework to regulate and clarify 'reasonable' types and levels of claim, to ensure those who have genuinely been harmed benefit and those who are making spurious claims are discouraged.