Welcome to the HSE podcast
In this episode we speak to Judith Hackitt, the chair of HSE, as she welcomes publication of Lord Young's review of Health and Safety.
We know that what we do is important and we have every right and every reason to stand up for what we do because we focus on real risks
But first here's a round up of other health and safety news.
The Health and Safety Executive is satisfied that the majority of local authorities in England are properly managing asbestos in their 'system build' schools - those schools with structural frames commonly fire-proofed with asbestos materials.
110 of the 152 councils in England responsible for managing schools satisfied HSE, via a survey, that they have proper systems in place to manage asbestos. The other councils were visited to make sure they were meeting their legal duties.
Ten councils were given enforcement notices ordering improvements to be made, such as to training or the information provided to tradespeople.
The results from the survey, which was a joint effort with the Department for Education, are available on the HSE website.
A major pub chain has been fined £300,000 after a Merseyside landlord died from carbon monoxide poisoning in November 2007.
Paul Lee, tenant landlord of the Aintree Hotel in Bootle, was found unconscious 10 hours after turning on a gas fire in his living room before falling asleep. He died in hospital the next day.
The owners of the Aintree Hotel, Enterprise Inns plc, admitted health and safety breaches after an HSE investigation found that the gas fire may not have been serviced since 1979 and that the chimney was completely blocked.
Liverpool Crown Court heard that Enterprise Inns should have ensured that gas safety inspections were carried out at 868 of its pubs at least once a year. Only 394 of them had valid certificates.
HSE has teamed up with IOSH - the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health - in a bid to find new ideas to improve health and safety in small businesses.
The best idea will win £1000 and a free two-day pass to the IOSH 11 conference and exhibition in London, the largest health and safety conference in the UK.
Judges are looking for original ideas that have already been put into practice in a small business and are delivering proven results without stopping the day job.
The competition's open to IOSH chartered members based in the UK - and the prize fund comes from former HSE board member Judith Donovan CBE, who's donated her cash prize for winning the IOSH/Sypol Lifetime Achievement Award.
An entry form can be downloaded from the HSE website and the deadline is 1st December 2010.
You can stay up to date with the latest news and updates from the HSE by visiting the news pages on our website hse.gov.uk/news.
If you'd rather get the latest news by email then sign up for free regular eBulletins on a range of different health and safety subjects. Sign up at hse.gov.uk/news/subscribe.
HSE has welcomed the publication of Lord Young's report into health and safety and has already been working with others to put some of his recommendations into action. More on that in a moment but first we talk to Judith Hackitt, the chair of HSE. We started by asking her about the background to the report.
Lord Young first started looking at health and safety ahead of the election and then following the election he was asked by David Cameron to take the work further and he's been doing a review of health and safety and in particular the issues that have given the whole image of health and safety a bad name and looking specifically at the compensation culture, that's been a part of the remit.
Perhaps people listening might think that that would send the Health and Safety Executive into a complete panic.
Not at all. We said right at the outset that we very much welcomed this review and if people look back at what I've been saying since I've been the chair of HSE I've been saying all along that a number of the things that give health and safety a bad name are things that we have no responsibility for whatsoever. So it was a really good new piece to me when Lord Young was appointed to do this because it needed someone who could look beyond the remit of the Health and Safety Executive and look at what the other factors are out there that create the problems that we all know only too well that create all the nonsense and the myths.
When the review came out you talked about how health and safety is often used as an excuse to hide behind. What did that mean?
It means that it's become an easy excuse for laziness. This might cost money so I just don't want to do it. But it's much easier for lots of people to simply say I'm not doing it because of health and safety. And what Lord Young I think has found from what I've discussed with him during the course of his review has been just how much that goes on. You know, he's written in the newspaper about toothpicks and about all sorts of nonsense examples he's found himself where people have hidden behind health and safety as an excuse when it's quite clear it's about cost cutting or laziness or whatever.
In an ideal world, how would you like to see that changed, you know, how would you like to see people prevented from doing that?
As ever, the ideal solution to come out of this is that we redress the balance and get back to the right place. So, for example, while compensation culture is outwith our remit, I think we have to recognise that there are people out there who will continue to make claims and rightly so when they've been harmed because other people have been negligent. But it's the spurious and the claims that are made on the basis of I'll just see what I can get that you want to stop, because it's part of getting people to recognise that they have some responsibility for themselves. That I think is important. In our area, the real health and safety issues that we deal with, I think, if this report gets everyone else to focus on, yes there are real risks some workplaces, not necessarily just big ones, sometimes they'll be small, but ones that have real risks and those are the areas that we need to focus on and that I think is all to the good and just reinforces many of the messages that are already in our strategy.
One thing the HSE has been doing for the last three years or so is trying to smash those myths, hasn't it? Do you think that work has started to make a bit of a difference in the media coverage that you get?
I think it certainly has started to make a difference. You start to see reporters referring to that. And again, I think because of Lord Young's own publicity and public relations work that he's been doing about his own review, people have gone back and looked at some of that material that's been on our website for a long time and recognised that there has been a consistency of message here that's being picked up on. So yes, I think it is starting to turn the tide so I think we can look forward to actually making some real progress now on creating this clear water between the genuine stuff that we do and the nonsense that's done in our name.
The HSE has already been working with others to develop responses to two of the recommendations in the Lord Young report - that's a 20 minute online risk assessment for offices and a new occupational safety consultants register, which will be launched in January 2011. Barbara Hockey, you're part of the team working on the safety consultants register, what's the thinking behind setting it up?
The thinking behind this register is to identify where standards can be raised with the health and safety profession. What this register will do is acknowledge those who are working at the highest end within the professional bodies who give advice on general safety issues.
So who's going to be on this register then?
The people who will be on the database initially will be those consultants who have achieved chartered or fellow status within four key professional bodies. The four professional bodies involved at this stage are IOSH, CIEH, REHIS or IIRSM.
So what about people who aren't members of those bodies, what do they do?
Well the scheme is voluntary.. This is just the first stage we're looking at with this register and it may well be the scheme gets expanded in time however at this stage it is only open to those members of those professional bodies.
So let's say I'm an employer looking to employ one of these consultants. How would I actually access this?
It will be an online register that employers will be able to log on to and search for a suitable consultant for their particular business based upon the topic that they specialise in or the industry that they specialise in or the geographical location and it is for the employer to then decide who is the best consultant for them.
So what's HSE's role in all of this then?
Well HSE has been working with the professional bodies for some time about how an accreditation scheme could work and following Lord Young's report we've been asked to help facilitate this to happen. So we're working very closely with the professional bodies and we are taking the lead at this stage however it is the professional bodies themselves who are working to set the standards and will ultimately be managing this scheme.
HSE's also launched a web tool to run 20 minute risk assessments for low risk offices. I'm joined now by Kate Haire who's part of the team rolling out this tool. How does it actually work?
Well basically it builds on the example risk assessments that we'd already put together and we knew were successful but allows people to go through as you say a twenty minute process where they can think about significant hazards in
their workplace, to go through a series of possible actions that they may already have in place to manage those risks in the workplace and then think about further actions that they might want to take forward. And essentially do that on a step by step process through some commons hazards and some others that may be applicable or not which allows them to print off their own tailored risk assessment at the end of the process.
So you've already got quite a lot of risk assessments, example risk assessments on the website. How does this actually differ then?
Well really the aim is to actually try and reduce the amount of time people need to spend on this process and it actually will take people through step by step things that are unique to their workplace. For example, if you use the model risk assessments you might have to quite a bit of cutting and pasting and thinking about whether certain things apply according to the scenarios at the front but using the online version you can go through and literally tick what is and what isn't applicable to your workplace. And the final product will print off relevant to the information that you've entered.
So you're promising them that they can do this in twenty minutes then?
We're saying around twenty minutes on the basis that the people doing the risk assessment should know how their business works and have a familiarity with what the hazards are in their office. But what we're saying is that if you're a low-risk office then you should be able to think about these things within about twenty minutes.
Because a lot of people think that a risk assessment has to be an all singing all dancing document that covers absolutely everything that could go wrong, don't they?
They do indeed, yes, but the reality is that the legislative framework only requires people to think about and document the significant risks in their workplace. So this is aimed at offices, what about people who work in other workplaces?
Well as I said earlier we've got our suite of example risk assessments which cover some of the more unique areas such as for example motor vehicle repair shops but we'll also in the first tranche of these we'll be doing some interactive risk assessments for classrooms and also people working in low risk shops. And we'll be extending them to certain elements of the voluntary sector as well. But the feedback we've received so far has been very positive so there's always the potential for this to expand further.
And you can access the online risk assessment tool at hse.gov.uk/office
Visit the transcript for this podcast episode at hse.gov.uk/podcasts for more information about the issues discussed in this interview.
If you have anything to say on what's been covered in this Podcast just let us know at hse.gov.uk/podcasts
HSE's Online Team is keen to improve hse.gov.uk, so if you found something useful something you dislike or think there's something missing get in touch. Click on the 'Feedback' link at the bottom of any HSE website page.