Good morning. Thank you for inviting me to give this brief update on some of the work that the Health and Safety Executive is doing to help SMEs manage health and safety.
Those of you who heard my remarks at the opening of the conference a little earlier will know about the work we’re doing to simplify the wider regulatory framework. But let me just cover this again briefly for those of you who were not in the audience.
A number of reviews and reports over the last few years have shown our regulatory system is largely fit for purpose - they have also provided valuable insight into areas where we can improve. To remain a world class system we need to continue to evolve as the world of work continues to change.
We’ve been simplifying and removing outdated or unnecessary regulation, something we were doing before the recent reviews, but there now is a fresh impetus extending beyond the regulations into guidance, codes of practice and our approach to inspection and interventions. The overarching goal we’re working toward is to make it easier for businesses to do what is required without changing the high standards of workplace health and safety.
The work we are doing to help SMEs, is very much aligned with, and contributes to our wider corporate goals.
Where necessary, the guidance provides signposts to more detailed help and industry-specific advice. "Health and Safety Made Simple" is accessible to everyone on the HSE website.
Our Health and Safety Toolbox, also accessible online, offers the following:
To date HSE has also developed three risk assessment tools:
The online risk assessment tools for offices, shops and charity shops help cut back the time it takes to weigh up the hazards in these premises to just 20 minutes. HSE produced the web tools to help employers to consider relevant hazards in their office, shop or charity shop and think about how they control them to keep staff and visitors safe. They help avoid unnecessary paperwork and bureaucracy for these businesses, which tend to be low risk. The online tool works by prompting employers to answer a series of questions about their workplace and then generates a unique risk assessment with actions required.
Since its launch on 15th October 2010, over 24,400 people have completed a risk assessment using the office risk assessment tool alone.
We also provide a suite of example risk assessments covering a large number of types of premises to provide SMEs with practical examples of actions that can be taken to control risks in their workplace.
We set up the Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register (OSHCR) to increase employers' confidence in accessing good quality, proportionate advice for those who really need it and also to address concerns that some employers - especially SMEs - can find it difficult to know how and where to get external health and safety advice. Those SMEs who, having read HSEs guidance, decide that they want or need external help can search the OSHCR to find trusted advice.
OSHCR has been established by a number of professional bodies representing general safety and occupational health consultants across the UK, with support from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). To date over 2,300 consultants have joined the register.
Following my speech today, Teresa Budworth, Vice Chair of the OSHCR Board and Chief Executive of NEBOSH will give a presentation and hold a Q&A session on the consultants register – so please stick around to learn more.
Professor Löfstedt proposed that mechanisms should be introduced to allow for cases of incorrect, over application of Health & Safety legislation to be addressed. Our response was to establish the Challenge Panels.
The Myth Busters Challenge Panel looks into complaints about the advice given by non-regulators such as insurance companies, health and safety consultants and employers and will quickly assess if sensible and proportionate decisions have been made.
I chair the panel and am supported by a pool of independent members who represent a wide range of interests - small businesses, public safety, trade unions, the insurance industry - and wider outside interests where day-to-day common sense decisions on risk management are made.
Launched in April 2012 the panel has received over 200 cases, around 170 of which have been published on the website. It offers opinion, based on the available information, about whether the matter is covered by health and safety legislation and, if so, whether the decisions or advice look proportionate.
The cases considered are published on HSE’s website along with the Panel’s opinion, and build a portfolio of real life examples of incorrect or disproportionate advice given, or decisions taken, in the name of health and safety. Businesses and members of the public can make challenges by visiting HSE’s website:
We get some very bizarre cases that, quite honestly, you just couldn’t make up!
Alongside Mythbusters, the Independent Regulatory Challenge Panel was established to allow businesses to challenge advice provided by HSE or Local Authority inspectors which they believe to be incorrect or over the top. The Panel is chaired by Tricia Henton (ex Environment Agency):
We have received only one case for this panel in more than a year, and a small number of enquiries. Part of the reason for this is that we encourage businesses to firstly try to resolve the matter with the regulator at local level which usually leads to a resolution. But, the stark contrast between more than 200 myths and only one regulatory case also highlights that the problems are really around poor customer service, excuses and silly decisions that are nothing to do with real health and safety issues.
Our approach to helping SMEs is specifically tailored to Britain, but the focus on making health and safety simpler for SMEs is taking place throughout Europe. Only two weeks ago I was at a conference in Dublin as part of the Irish presidency of the EU where we were sharing knowledge and good practice of helping SMEs.
Finally, let me tell you about what we are doing in relation to young workers. As part of the external guidance review, we are revising our guidance on young people. This guidance consists of web pages aimed at those employing young people, with a particular focus on work experience.
Introducing young people to the world of work is an invaluable part of their education, an appreciation of risk and how to deal with it can be one of the biggest benefits offered by work or work experience. We want young people to have opportunities across the world of work but this shouldn’t be burdensome for employers. We want to promote the message that health and safety shouldn’t be a barrier to employing a young person for work or work experience. Their experience of good health and safety management is also important, as it will be them one day taking on responsibility for managing work and leading organisations.
I hope that this whistle stop tour gives you a good idea of what HSE is working towards. Simple, proportionate advice and focus on real risk is also something that I want all health and safety professionals to employ.
The business case for good health and safety is the same whatever the type or size of business. Less injuries and ill health means more committed, motivated staff and better reputation, reduced insurance premiums or claims, fewer staff absences, less staff turnover and higher productivity.
Our industry and our business is about enabling people to make things happen while ensuring that the work going on does not kill, injure or make people ill. Let’s all get on with making that happen.