for the month of September, 2012

Shops and offices 'will not be inspected'

18th of September 2012

Councils will be prevented from carrying out proactive health and safety inspections of businesses such as shops and offices to ‘boost the economy’ from April 2013.

The government said it planned to introduce a statutory code next year to ‘rule out’ proactive inspections of ‘low-risk businesses’ except where there has been a ‘genuine employee complaint’ or a ‘real incident flagged to Health and Safety Executive (HSE)’.

It also said more than 3,000 regulations on businesses will be scrapped or overhauled.

Michael Fallon, the new business minister who took over from Mark Prisk last week, said the government was injecting fresh impetus into its drive to cut red tape

‘We’re getting out of the way by bringing common sense back to health and safety. We will now be holding departments’ feet to the fire to ensure all unnecessary red tape is cut,’ he said.

The HSE, which will be publishing a consultation on the new code later this month, said it will ensure that ‘proportionate, risk-based’ approach is adopted by local authorities.

In the first nine months of 2011/2012 there were 97 deaths in the service sector, which includes premises deemed low risk such as shops, schools, pubs, clubs and offices, according to provisional HSE statistics.

There were 5,034 slip, trip and fall injuries which led to an employee having to take more than three days off work in the retail sector, 3,088 injuries in education sector and 1,988 in hospitality sector in 2010/11.

raham Jukes, CIEH chief executive, said health and safety was about saving lives not strangling small businesses.

‘The CIEH is very concerned by the way the government is turning common sense discussions and debates into a series of media grabbing “sound bites” designed to appeal to the tabloid press.’ he said.

‘While currently, it is possible for low-risk businesses to face proactive health and safety inspection visits either by local authority or by HSE inspectors, they are rare or done in conjunction with another regulatory compliance checks in high risk premises.

‘All the evidence shows that businesses appreciate and value the sound advice and guidance they receive from our members – a safe business is a good business. That is just common sense.’

Public section union Unison questioned the government definition of low-risk workplaces.

‘The government does not take into consideration occupational ill health such as musculoskeletal disorders and work-related stress, which are the most common types of ill-health in so-called low risk workplaces, and account for more than three quarters of all work-related injuries and illness currently suffered in the UK,’ said James Randall, Unison assistant national officer.

More than 20,000 people die every year as a result of a disease they got through their work and a further 1.9 million

Steve Naldrett, director of Ardan Training Consultancy says ” The comments above by Graham Dukes of the CIEH ring very true. If low risk businesses show the local authority that they have adequate health and safety measures in place, then there is no need for them to be audited regularly, so current system in perfectly adequate and not onerous”

Steve went on to say ” My concern is that there are a few businesses who routinely ignore health and safety issues, this new initiative will encourage them to continue to ignore the issues.”


Regulator "fails to acknowledge true scale of cancer caused by work"

20th of September 2012

A pressure group has warned the HSE that it needs to change its “unrealistic” and “ignorant” approach to occupational cancer if thousands more cases and deaths are to be prevented. The Hazards Campaign has called the HSE intervention paper on occupational cancer, which was presented to the HSE Board meeting on 22nd August, a “fairy tale unrealistic view of the world of work today”.

Campaigners went on to state that the paper “ignores many known carcinogens, shows little interest in finding unknown exposures, underestimates the numbers of workers exposed and shows no sense of urgency to tackle this massive but preventable workplace epidemic. Because of the lack of action now, more people will develop occupational cancers and die from them in the future”.

The HSE’s Long Latency Health Risks Division estimates that occupational cancer accounts for around 8000 of the estimated annual toll of 12,000 deaths from occupational ill health, and some 14,000 new cases a year. This is based on a study funded by the HSE and published in the British Journal of Cancer in June this year.

The paper presented to the board outlined how the Executive is addressing this via a range of interventions and by focusing on 10 priority agents/occupations to help it identify where its efforts will have the most impact.

The Hazards Campaign, however, says that the true annual figures are nearer 18,000 deaths and 30,000 registrations, and blames the HSE’s reliance on epidemiology – looking primarily at the specific organs in the body affected by cancer, rather than the actual causes – for its own vision.

One example used is diesel fumes exposure: The HSE estimates that over 10,000 workers have an increased risk of cancer because they work in diesel-exposed jobs, while the actual number of Great Britain’s diesel-exposed workforce is more than a million.

Occupational cancer researcher Simon Pickvance warns: “The HSE has been in denial about work cancer for over three decades, depending far too heavily on epidemiology which is only capable of seeing widespread, long-established problems among large numbers of workers, employed for long periods of time, in large workplaces such as mines, mills and manufacturing.

“This is totally unsuitable for today’s smaller and fast-evolving workplaces with more complex, and diverse exposures. It is incapable of picking up high risk exposures affecting smaller groups of workers.” he added.

The Hazards Campaign wants the HSE to stop dithering and says that the inquiry should identify high risk groups and look at case studies, industrial hygiene and toxicological studies to reveal the risks faced in different jobs.