HSE Starts Pruning Legislation


Professor Löftstedt’s report on health and safety, and its recommendations to reduce red tape and needless legislation, has been generally adopted by the Government, and those in the construction safety arena will surely welcome this particular example of the report in action.

The HSE, often criticised for its approach to industry, may be applauded for its first initiatives to make a start on the proposed bonfire of pointless Acts and Regulations.

In January this year the HSE published a consultation that proposed revoking seven statutory instruments. This closed on 12 March and the outcome of the exercise is promised soon.

Their second consultative document, which ends on 4 July, seeks views on their intention to remove fourteen legislative measures (one Act, twelve Regulations and one Order and with a related provision in the Factories Act 1961) and to withdraw approval for an associated Approved Code of Practice.

They say that these are all redundant, or have been overtaken by more up to date Regulations, or have not delivered the expected benefits.

The measures involved range from the storage of combustible old celluloid films, to docks regulations, to metrication (remember that?), to the examination of gasholders. But it is the construction laws that are likely to be repealed that will most interest the readers of this blog.

First to be slated for the scrapyard are the Notification of Conventional Tower Cranes Regulations 2010 and the Notification of Conventional Tower Cranes (Amendment) Regulations 2010 – the reason given is that HSE’s Impact Assessment was ‘not able to identify any quantifiable benefits to health and safety outcomes and that it is not clear that a statutory requirement to register tower cranes is the most appropriate way to provide public assurance about the safety of those cranes’. It seems that only 3 members of the public anywhere had registered any concern about tower cranes since the introduction of these Regulations and they were felt to be more concerned with public perceptions than actually reducing accidents from the cranes. Other legislation is said to amply cover this more crucial aspect.

The Construction (Head Protection) Regulations 1989 are claimed to duplicate responsibilities that are set out in the later Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992. Although HSE points to a reduction in deaths and injuries following the 1989 Regulations, the new Regulations cover the PPE requirements more thoroughly.

One notable and quite controversial note is that the proposals make no changes to sections 11 & 12 of the Employment Act 1989, which exempts turban-wearing Sikhs from wearing head protection whilst on construction sites. This exemption applies to any statutory provision, so they say it would continue to apply to the provisions of the current PPE Regulations.

The third pair of measures that affect this industry is the Notification of Installations Handling Hazardous Substances Regulations 1982 and the Notification of Installations Handling Hazardous Substances (Amendment) Regulations 2002.

These have been superseded by the European Seveso II Directive. This Directive was implemented in GB through the COMAH regulations and the Planning (Hazardous Substances) (PHS) Regulations 1992, which now largely subsume the NIHHS procedure.

This allows the streamlining of a currently complicated notification system. The COMAH Regulations are based on more up to date scientific views from across Europe. Potential duplication and confusion should be avoided in future.

Those who may wish to, have a limited time to respond to the consultation by using the online questionnaire or download a response form to complete.

The Health and Safety Executive says it believes that public consultation provides an open and transparent approach to decision-making. Following this consultation, the HSE will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State on the best way forward.

You can:

Respond by email – send this to revocationconsultation@hse.gsi.gov.uk

Respond on paper – you can do this either by:

  • Printing the online questionnaire; or
  • Making a written response in whatever format you wish. Send your completed response to:

Tim Holt, Health and Safety Executive
7th Floor Caxton House, 6-12 Tothill Street, London SW1H 9NA

At the end of this process, ‘appropriate guidance’ will be provided to industry, to supply details of what business needs to do to comply with the law. It does look as if this could be summarised as ‘follow the latest current legislation’, but sadly it seems that more money will be spent on books and web articles. Still, CDM Coordinators should have a simpler life in their specification work concerning PPE and tower cranes in particular.