Lofstedt – Chapter 5, Apply Within

Professor Lofstedt now turns to the regulations themselves. The focus of attention is those regulations that everyone has already suspected are dodgy and knows shouldn’t really be there. They add little, if anything. Some of these were brought in for a particular issue that no-one can quite remember and, quite honestly, now look a little embarrassing. Well, intentioned, but lame. You know the sort, like requiring someone to tell you that they are a terrorist and if they don’t (and they are), then they’ve lied and that’s a serious offence (yeah, right, like they care). It only ever acts as an inconvenience for the law abiding and those that aren’t law-abiding, don’t often get caught.

The requirement to notify HSE if you have a Conventional Tower Crane, is one such case (not the small plastic remote control toy ones – it’s the real ones we want). I assume by painting it in psychedelic colours, you could get away with not having to register it (because it then could be argued that it is “unconventional”?). Even though they only came in around 2010 (amended in the same year) Lofty thinks that they should now go. And he’s probably right.

A similar point is made with the first aid regulations. Specifically, HSE approval of training for first aiders. I agree, this seems a little anomalous. OK, set standards and give guidance but treat it like most other safety and health training, insist that it is suitable, sufficient, appropriate and effective. Indeed, training ‘approvals’ for many qualifications are routinely and adequately controlled via awarding bodies. HSE is acting a bit like an awarding body here.

When it comes to Construction, the CDM regulations seem to have been instrumental in adding to the burden of paperwork and generating a myriad of training accreditation and competency schemes. This can be disproportionately burdensome for smaller projects. Not least the vast number of passport-type schemes that sprang up overnight. I wouldn’t mind but these passports don’t even get you into another country – well, maybe, Narnia.

Other regulations are also considered. My favourite is the portable appliance testing racket. Although there is some quite good HSE guidance on recommended testing frequencies for portable appliances, many companies still get told that they have to do everything annually. Yet another classic is the over zealous interpretation of work at height regulation – which some have interpreted as meaning that ladders are banned. Loftstedt’s answer to all of this is for the HSE to review the legislation ad guidance. Maybe, but if the guidance is already very good, it’s more the message isn’t getting through. The voice of the charlatan is louder.

On other matters, the HSE is commended for its sterling work on helping businesses understand how to interpret the law (especially ‘reasonably practicable’) but obviously more needs to be done. No doubt, this has all been added to HSE’s wish list to Father Christmas. But have they been naughty or have they been nice?