It has now been six months since the Report of Lord Young of Graffham entitled “Common Sense, Common Safety” was published and - as we have now witnessed the first prosecution for Corporate Manslaughter - it seems timely to review what (if anything) has changed.
Lord Young focused on low hazard premises such as offices and expressed the need to simplify risk assessment and reduce the regulatory burden. He recommended a register for consultants and a change to requirements to report accidents.
Section 2 and Section 3 of the 1974 Act place an overarching duty on every employer to protect employees and third parties affected by their activities from harm. It remains a criminal offence to fail to meet this standard of care.
Lord Young’s report makes no comment on the offence of Corporate Homicide (Corporate Manslaughter in England and Wales) and it is unlikely that there will be any move to do so. This is borne out by the fact that we have now witnessed the first successful prosecution of a company for Corporate Manslaughter. It is anticipated that the result will hearten those responsible for progressing prosecutions and that further trials will follow.
The HSE are currently consulting on a move to relax the requirement to report accidents resulting in a three day absence from work, to a requirement to report where the absence is seven days. Again, it is hoped that this will result in a reduction in the administrative burden on employers.
Register of Consultants
Lord Young recommended that health and safety consultants ought to have minimum qualification standards and be accredited to a professional body. The Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register has now been launched and allows for a search of consultants meeting the required standards.
Positive changes have resulted from the publication of Lord Young’s report, and more are in the pipeline. Employers must not, however, lose sight of the fact that reduced administrative burden does not lower the standard of care owed to employees and third parties.