Lofstedt 7 – Keep it Simple, shaking that ASSE

Having been abducted by aliens for several weeks I now find myself writing from Bahrain, an island in the Arabian gulf. I’ve been delivering a 2 day emergency planning workshop with a colleague at the ASSE conference (don’t ask), followed by 3 days of exhibitionism. For those of you that don’t know, ASSE is the American equivalent of IOSH. Both say they are the largest such organisations in the world which probably means that they’re of similar size or they use different criteria (like combined mass/volume of members vs numbers). All I know is that there are certain bodily functions that are ill advised in a gas-tight suite.

In Chapter 7, Lofty really gets going. And who can blame him? He’s kept his self-restraint for 6 whole chapters.

As I mentioned in earlier blogs, a real problem for many businesses is keeping up with the ever increasing amount and apparent complexity of legislation. It’s sometimes not what it says but more finding out it exists and where to find it. There have been many calls for consolidation but there are numerous options – everything together vs reduced number of thematic regulations and everything in between . I recognise that consolidation can sometimes end up making things even more tortuous, with nested conditional ‘if….then’ clauses. Consolidation in the human digestive system can lead to constipation and preoccupation with stools. One should never be frightened of stools…

Lofstedt helpfully distinguishes 3 broad categories of regulations which sit under the health and safety at work Act. These are easily recognisable as management, hazard-specific and activity/process-specific. The distinction between the latter two is somewhat arbitrary given that a hazard is usually construed as anything (object, activity etc) with the potential to cause harm. But that said, there’s clearly overarching management things (which speak in woollier management terminology) and specific stuff (sector/hazard/risk). Management regulations apply to all businesses whereas the rest may not.

Even if the ultimate consolidated regulations are better the process itself is yet another change. So, the benefits need to be clearly communicated. The main point here is clarity (oh, and lower compliance costs for business would be nice). Explosives, Mining, genetically modified organisms (that’s highly paid footballers to you and me) are just a few of those that have already been identified. Some (like specific construction head protection regulations) are seen as simply duplicating the requirements of other regs (like PPE), so should just be removed.

Clearly the scale of such a task to figure out what can actually be removed and formulate the legislation clearly but without reducing protection, will be detailed and tedious. In the current economic climate, it might just be put on the too difficult pile. Perhaps we should just put all our resources into stopping time.