Last week I mentioned that the safety bloke isn’t expected to be a legal expert, but it helps knowing the mind of the regulator. As it turns out there was a recent example of this cited in the October 2015 edition of the Safety and Health Practitioner (In Court Analysis) – Hague (HSE Inspector) v Rotary Yorkshire Ltd [Court of Appeal, 2015]. This also illustrates the recently very topical issue of hindsight bias that can infect everyone – in essence that things can seem very different, predictable or obvious after the event (search Vimeo or Youtube for the comical video on Captain Hindsight). In this case, the HSE inspector issued a prohibition notice based on the evidence in front of him at the time, that lead him to conclude there was likely to be a serious risk of injury (the owner couldn’t prove that some exposed wires were dead, so he assumed they were live). This later turned out not to be true – but after various appeals backwards and forwards, the HSE’s decision stood. The basic idea here is you need to get your house in order and make very sure you have all your evidence ready so that an inspector can form an opinion based on good evidence before he makes a decision to issue an enforcement notice. The fact you might later get the evidence won’t negate the issue of the notice (and reasons for it) at the time – and as we all know, these things go on public record.
That done, we now start on Unit B. I was going to say this marks the beginning of more technical and less woolly, but that’s not how it is anymore.
The new element B1 is essentially concepts moved from the previous B11. This reflects the growing recognition of the importance of health and wellbeing – so it is brought right to the beginning of the unit rather than being tacked on the end (oh the irony of how it is often treated in practice). Accordingly, you’ll now see quite a few items brought in from NEBOSH’s companion health and wellbeing certificate. For example, the definitions of health and wellbeing are brought in directly element 1 of the certificate, and the disability and fitness to work from element 2. Relevant material is also taken from elements 4, 7 and 8 of the certificate. And why not (though that qualification syllabus has not been reviewed for some considerable time).
A welcome addition here is the discussion on managing sickness absence (long-term and frequent short-term). This is reinforced by the explicit inclusion of reviewing risk assessments prior to return to work. Most everyday workplaces are essentially focused on safety issues in risk assessments – it takes a bit more effort to think about issues that can affect health, even indirectly. Of course, employers are not hospitals, care homes, physiotherapists, charities (apart from those that are…) or anything like that, so most efforts are focused on getting the employee back to productive work. But that turns out to be good for us. Long-term sickness absence just gets longer and longer if it is not managed. Now, where did I leave my calendar – I’m sure I’m due some sick leave…