Lord Young vs the Limpets, Cowboys, Knuckleheads and Numpties

In this final part of the review, I’ll take in standards and the services before bashing the EU yet again (but they deserve it). I’ll ignore likely changes to RIDDOR as that, quite frankly, is pretty dull.

Now, in my earlier blogs, I’ve touched on the issue of H&S consultants and the disproportionate approach for small, low risk businesses. Dave is pretty unimpressed by the lack of barriers to entry to the profession of safety consultant. He wants to beef it all up by insisting that they have minimum qualifications and experience and appear on a register. In practice this means if you’re CMIOSH, you should get automatic entry (lower standards are suggested for internal H&S officers).

Some specialist areas of H&S have been regulated for many years. For example, Dangerous Goods Safety Advisers have had to be vocationally licensed for around the last 10 years. CMIOSH though is quite different and I’m not sure that it will really tackle the issue. Yes, he’s also suggesting that there are tough disciplinary measures and policing by Trading Standards, but those sorts of things only get actioned when things go badly wrong. I’m not convinced it’ll tackle the “gold-plating”, especially if you don’t know you’ve been “gold-plated” and are doing more than you should have to.

It appears that part of the problem has been that some insurers have insisted that even small businesses employ the services of a H&S consultant to get their risk assessments done. I’m not sure how widespread this practice is, but it could easily be used to get out of paying out a claim, I suspect. So, Dave has it in for them. In fact, he’s written a letter to the insurers – good luck with that.

Dave has also noticed that HSE and LA enforcement is sometimes inconsistent and inefficient. As well as leveraging HSE’s expertise more for small businesses, he’s also suggested joint food safety and H&S inspections (seems sensible, just like combining E, H&S – the logical next step with EA and SEPA?). I think in most cases, it could just mean getting the right check list.

A stroke of genius is actually delegating at least some of these inspections (I think mainly food hygiene) to accredited organisations. I guess this would work a little like ISO 9001 external auditing. Provided it’s robust, reasonably priced and respectable, why not? I guess there’s only the slight issue of enforcement (where immediate closure of an establishment might be needed) – but if HSE/LA retain the higher risk areas, then that should remain a hypothetical.

Dave is also rather fed up with the possibility of members of the emergency services (Police/Fire) doing something exceptional (heroic, even) facing investigation and prosecution because they put themselves at risk. This is a perversion of morality and needs to be stamped out. OK we don’t want a “Gung Ho” attitude but heroism is to be commended.

Education get’s some attention. We’ve already looked at some aspects of this – classroom risk assessments. But, as every parent knows, school also involves a number of educational trips, including those to adventure sports centres. Lord Young is intending to remove the grotesque amount of bureaucracy surrounding these, that adds little value and dissuades people from even bothering. The Educational value of these activities is so great that something must be done. So, it’ll be simplified and a proportionate approach adopted (where the educational benefit is weighed against the risk). In reality, this is just getting back to the roots of “so far as reasonably practicable” which has been slowly modified into “just don’t even think about it; I have a lawyer waiting in the other room”.

Finally, Dave gets to grips with the law. It’s too diffused, complicated and increasingly compliance-based. The original 1974 Act (HSWA) gets a thumbs up but the EU share the blame for degrading its power. But it’s also the problems in how it’s interpreted and implemented. Dave suggests that they all get brought back into a single set of regulations again. This two-dimensional filing system (like my bedroom when I was a teenager) is unhelpful. Yes, the experts and free masons know where everything is (in a filing cabinet in their lodge basement) but what about the rest of us?

Lord Young wants to pare the EU legislation back too – that proportionate approach again, especially to eradicate this “eliminate all risk however trivial and whatever the cost” thinking that seems to have been applied to inherently low risk businesses. This may need an invasion force into the heart of Europe to bang a few heads together. This may therefore not be achieved in our lunchtime, so must be tackled in between courses.

So, in summary, Dave has come up with pretty sensible recommendations. Most address frustrations that we have probably all encountered and felt powerless to tackle. The solutions are not terribly surprising. Some are easy to implement and others will never happen. Either way, it had to be said.