Health & Safety Executive
Health and safety is a topic that affects everyone, but is often mocked for the wrong reasons.
Forum members are well aware of the legal requirements of Health and Safety legislation and endeavour to provide appropriate and proportionate guidance to the industry.
At a meeting with the HSE in July this year the relatively new campaign on sensible risk was discussed in detail. For many who have suffered bad or uninformed experiences over safety matters in the past it may come as a surprise to know that a common sense approach has always been the basis on which the HSE work but the interpretation and application has not always been consistant at the sharp end. The capaign is intended to address this problem and to improve the understanding of those applying risk assessment.
Some extracts are given below, courtesy of the Health and Safety Executive, but further information can be found on the HSE website: www.hse.gov.uk
You may also wish to see their 'myth of the month' feature which has addressed flower baskets on lighting columns in the past on: www.hse.gov.uk/myths
Principles of sensible risk management
Sensible risk management IS about:
YES Ensuring that workers and the public are properly protected
YES Providing overall benefit to society by balancing benefits and risks, with a focus on reducing real risks - both those which arise more often and those with serious consequences
YES Enabling innovation and learning not stifling them
YES Ensuring that those who create risks manage them responsibly and understand that failure to manage real risks responsibly is likely to lead to robust action
YES Enabling individuals to understand that as well as the right to protection, they also have to exercise responsibility
Sensible risk management IS NOT about:
NOT Creating a totally risk free society
NOT Generating useless paperwork mountains
NOT Scaring people by exaggerating or publicising trivial risks
NOT Stopping important recreational and learning activities for individuals where the risks are managed
NOT Reducing protection of people from risks that cause real harm and suffering
Saving Lives~ not stopping them
When done well, health and safety management protects people from risks that cause them serious harm and suffering; businesses tell us that it also saves them money in the long term, says geoffrey podger, HSE Chief Executive.
But when done badly, it can result in work grinding to halt under a mass of paperwork; whilst everyday activities are needlessly stopped. I am very clear that what we need is a sensible approach to risk management - saving lives, not stopping them. Unfortunately, that is not always what happens in practice. 'I'hat is why the Health and Safety Commission and Executive have launched a campaign to get the focus firmly onto practical steps to protect people from the real risks and away from bureaucratic back-covering. It has been very heartening to see many others joining this campaign - including insurers, lawyers, business organisations and health and safety professionals. Popular stories abound about health and safety banning everything from ladders to school trips. Many of these stories are no more than urban myths (we run a 'myth of the month'feature on our website at www. hse.gov.uk/myths ), but others have some basis in fact. Sometimes a well-meaning, but poorly-informed manager has gone beyond what the law, and common sense, dictate. On other occasions health and safety is used as a convenient scapegoat to justify an unpopular decision taken for other - usually financial reasons.
There are also stories of voluminous paperwork being required for even the most mundane activity. Once again, a good deal is myth, but there is again a grain of truth, with some regarding health and safety as a bureaucratic rather than practical issue. Appropriate records can help manage risk, and businesses that employ 5 or more people have a legal duty to keep health and safety records. But on its own paperwork never saved anyone - it is a means to an end, never an end in itself. It should be fit for purpose and in proportion to the risk involved. At the end of the day, it is action that makes the difference.
Amidst these stories, it is easy to forget that the great majority of decisions taken are proportionate and sensible, and that we have to protect those in the workplace and the public at large from real risks. As the law requires them, businesses look to manage the overall risk to a level that is 'reasonably practicable'. The important thing is that businesses address their risks - abdicating responsibility will not make them go away -- and then arm themselves with the facts so they can manage those risks effectively.
a legal concept established in case law:
"Reasonably practicable" is a narrower term than "physically possible"and implies that a computation must be made in which the quantum of risk is placed in one scale and the sacrifice, whether in money, time or trouble, involved in the measures necessary to avert the risk is placed in the other; and that, if it be shown that there is a gross disproportion between them, the risk being insignificant in relation to the sacrifice, the person upon whom the duty is laid discharges the burden of proving that compliance was not reasonably practicable.
Edwards v National Coal Board