Current issues

HSE introduces new dispute process for Fee for Intervention scheme:

Following a public consultation that ended in June 2017, the HSE has revised its dispute process under the Fee for Intervention scheme. Following a judicial review brought by OCS Limited, which challenged the fairness of a dispute process overseen by the HSE, the new process introduces an independent panel to make decisions at dispute stage, and an entitlement to disclosure. The panel will be chaired by a lawyer and include two members that have practical experience in the management of health and safety. The HSE has also stated that further information will be provided to businesses in order to allow for appropriate representations to be made to the panel.

Gross negligence manslaughter sentencing guidelines:

On 10 October 2017, the ten-week consultation, relating to new guidelines for the sentencing of gross negligence manslaughter offences, closed. This review is predicted to result in new guidelines being introduced for the sentencing of individuals, which will significantly increase the length of custodial sentences imposed. The changes come in response to the Sentencing Council’s assertion that gross negligence manslaughter sentences are considerably lower than those for other manslaughter offences. The consultation document outlines that the median sentence to date has been four years, with a quarter of individuals prosecuted for gross negligence manslaughter receiving suspended sentences. The new guidelines will also target several other forms of manslaughter, although it will omit corporate manslaughter, on which separate guidelines were specified in February 2016.

Grenfell Inquiry:

In the wake of the Grenfell tragedy in June 2017, the disconnect between the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, the Building Regulations 2010, and associated guidance will come under increased scrutiny. The government asked Dame Judith Hackett (previously head of the HSE) to undertake an independent review of building and fire safety regulations, with a particular focus on high-rise residential buildings. This review is to run alongside the Public Inquiry being chaired by Sir Martin Moore-Bick. An interim report was published on 18 November 2017. The key finding in this report was that the current regulatory system for ensuring safety in high-rise and complex buildings is ‘not fit for purpose’. The review will now undertake targeted work in six broad areas – regulation and guidance; roles and responsibilities; competence; process, compliance and enforcement; resident’s voice and raising concerns; and quality assurance and products – in partnership with the construction industry and other stakeholders, before publishing its final report and recommendations in spring 2018.

HSE report & statistics released:

In December 2017, the HSE released its annual report detailing summary statistics for Great Britain in 2017. Key statistics include the following: 1.3 million workers suffered from work-related ill health during the relevant period, 0.5 million workers suffered from work-related stress, and 137 suffered fatal injuries in the workplace. 2016-2017 saw a significant increase in fines for businesses breaching health and safety legislation under the new court sentencing guidelines – 21 companies receiving £30.7m of the total £69.9m fines imposed. Total fines increased significantly from the £38.8m the year before. Nevertheless, there was a fall in the number of cases prosecuted, following an upward trend for several years. Whilst many of the other figures stayed similar to the year before, the proportion of people who reported experiencing work-related stress, depression or anxiety has risen again, increasing by 16% since 2014-2015. The report, though, once again highlights the UK’s “consistently low standardised rates of fatal injury” in comparison to that of the rest of the EU.

Dates for the diary

2 February 2018 Consultation ends on implementing new and revised Workplace Exposure Limit. This will look at revising indicative Occupational Exposure Limits for 31 chemical substances to help protect workers from the ill-health effects of exposure to hazardous substances.
February 2018 The delayed international standard on occupational health and safety management systems (ISO 45001) due to be published.
Spring 2018 Full reports from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry expected.