In this chapter of our Annual Insurance Review 2020, we look at the main developments in 2019 and expected issues in 2020 for health and safety.

Key developments in 2019

Last year, we mentioned that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) would be focusing on mental health in 2019. The HSE highlight that one in four will suffer with a problem with their mental health at some point, and that stress is a major cause of sickness absence in the workplace at a cost of over £5 billion per year. According to the Labour Force Survey published on 30 October, 595,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2017/18, while 15.4 million working days were lost to these conditions. The total number of cases in 2018/19 was reported as 602,000. Given the significant impact that problems with mental health have on our day-to-day lives, the HSE's continued focus on this important topic has been welcomed.

Following on from the updated first aid guidance on the issue of mental health issued by the HSE at the end of 2018, in March 2019 they released a work book "Tackling work related stress using the Management Standards approach", designed to help employers assess the risks of their employees suffering stress at work and providing practical guidance. It forms part of a suite of practical guides and toolkits that the HSE has produced to help confront the issue of work related stress and promote the well-being of employees – all of which are available to download online from the HSE's website, free of charge.

What to look out for in 2020

Last year there were two high profile inquests into deaths caused by severe allergic reactions to food - Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who suffered a fatal allergic reaction after eating a roll containing sesame seeds, and Owen Carey, whose allergy to dairy prompted a fatal reaction after he was served a chicken burger which contained buttermilk.

Following a campaign led by Natasha's parents, legislation officially known as the Food Information (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2019 was introduced on 5 September. The government has confirmed that 'Natasha's Law' will come into force in October 2021. It will require all businesses serving pre-packed food to ensure it has a list of all ingredients and allergens noted on a label which must be affixed to the product.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has already implemented a plan of improvements expected to modernise food regulation by 2020. This includes a plan to have online registration of all food businesses to assist their regulation by the relevant Local Authority. Specific to the death of Owen Carey, the FSA have also confirmed their intention to produce a simple aid memoire for Environmental Health Officers and Trading Standards Officers to assist in their regulation of food safety. They also intend to publish an updated version of "Safer Food Better Business" which will involve a review of allergen information. There will be a clear focus on the labelling of food allergens and the regulation of businesses in this area.