OHS - A Year in Review, 2016

13 minute read | Jan 05 2017

Legal compliance and good planning are the cornerstones of any good Occupational Health and Safety policy, so it's a good time of year for those involved in the Health and Safety arena, to reflect on the past year and any significant changes therein.

With society and the legal landscape changing on a frequent basis, (and while innovation, change and progression is always to be applauded in health and safety), as OHS practitioners, we need to ensure that regulatory and legal compliance are at the top of the agenda and that a sound understanding of the impacts on our organisations permeate all levels of the hierarchy.

In 2011, Professor Loftstedt's review of Health and Safety was well received and signalled a time of change in the world of Health and Safety. Similarly, 2016 has seen many key developments in health and safety and we've done a quick 'round-up'...

Sentencing Guidelines:

Sentencing Guidelines

One of the most significant changes here in the UK (with significant repercussions being seen for company directors who choose to flout health and safety law) has been the introduction of the new Sentencing Guidelines for Health and Safety Offences which came into force on the 1st Feb 2016. The guidelines introduce a structured approach for calculating sentences. More information is available in our post: Are you prepared for the new sentencing guidelines?

The changes have already raised concerns within the legal arena due to the fact that prosecutions can proceed without any harm occurring. This, added to the fact that there is such a large range of sentencing across the framework and the significant increase in fines. You can read more about the effects of these guidelines in our post: 'Due Diligence Defence: 5 steps to ensuring your workplace has safety covered'.

It would be true to say that like all legal changes there will be a period of uncertainty for all concerned.

PPE Regulations: Transition Period 2015-2018

PPE Regulations: Transition Period 2015-2018

Between February and April 2016 the PPE Regulations text was adopted and listed, starting the two year transition period for EU member states to introduce the new regulations with full enforcement in 2018.

These changes are in part to ensure they reflect current technology and processes. Other changes include:

  1. Changing Life Jackets from Cat 2 to Cat 3
  2. Changing hearing protection from Cat 2 to Cat 3
  3. A compulsory maximum five-year certificate of validity
  4. A Declaration of Conformity (or at least a link where it can be obtained)

The current PPE legislation is a Directive or a legislative act prescribing objectives for EU countries to achieve, in a way they define, by a set date. The new PPE legislation have been re-classified as a 'PPE Regulation' which is a binding legislative act and must be applied precisely across the EU by member countries. European Commission rules will, therefore, be set in stone.

While the previous PPE directive focused on manufacturers, the new regulations will effect the whole supply chain. In short, anyone involved in the supply and distribution chain should be reviewing their position currently to ensure they are prepared for the changes and to ensure compliance running up to 2018.

The BSI has produced an excellent whitepaper on the subject.

Brexit: how will it change the face of UK legislation? (best guess)

The UK legal system is currently comprises legislation - some of which is entirely formed in the UK and more that is born out of EU Directives. There are conflicting views of how the exit from the EU will change the face of HSE law (as with all other parts of the exit strategy) and it is likely that these issues will remain unclear for a lengthy period of time.

In the short term, there is likely to be little, if any change - apart from the obvious changes such as the binding judgements from the EU Court of Justice. As the process of separation progresses however, we could see the UK look more closely at streamlining its' own legislation relative to a given set of specifics and tailored to the UK.

Current de-regulations are based on the UK remaining in the EU, however, there are clear concerns raised by the TUC with reference to deregulating more EU Directives (or parts of directives) and gives the example of repealing the free eye test for DSE users.

Most legal experts agree that leaving the EU will be an extremely lengthy process trying to untangle the two legal systems. Whatever the outcome, the main priority will always be the health, safety and welfare of everyone at work. It is up the HSE community to stay abreast of changes over the coming years and not to lose sight of what is important on a day-to-day basis.

IOE Global Occupational Safety and Health Network

IOE Global Occupational Safety and Health Network

April 2016 saw the inaugural meeting of the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) Global Occupational Safety and Health network meeting in Belgium, hosted by the Federation of Enterprises of Belgium (FEB) and Sibelco at the company’s facilities in Genk. The event saw a host of topics brought to the table including:

  • Sibelco Safety and Health “Going for Zero” programme
  • The effect of Global Megatrends on OSH
  • Occupational Safety and Health: the future of work
  • How to engage with internal stakeholders to create a positive focus on OSH
  • Travel risk management and return on prevention
  • Critical Control Management: follow-up on the implementation
  • Accidents reporting and management
  • Leadership for growth

8 emerging trends in OSH were identified at the event:

  1. Pervasive technologies and increased levels of mechanisation and automation
  2. Rise of big data and the internet of things (tactile internet)
  3. Predictive analytics to prescriptive analytics
  4. Health, safety and environment interrelating with productivity
  5. Increased importance of occupational and psychosocial wellness
  6. Experiential workplaces and training becoming increasingly virtual and visual
  7. Wearables as a new form of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  8. Auditing moving beyond commonalities to extremities

...together with 13 more widely-recognised current OSH trends:

  1. Population ageing
  2. Migration
  3. Stress at work
  4. Workplace violence and harassment
  5. Health of women at work
  6. New technologies in green jobs
  7. Privatisation of health and safety provision
  8. Women exiting the workplace mid-career
  9. Climate change
  10. Migration of refugees into Europe
  11. Sustainable energy
  12. Nano materials
  13. Globally Harmonised System (GHS) of Classification

GOSH promotes the free exchange of experience and expertise, and a brainstorming session were held to identify priority challenges and concerns and topics of mutual interest for discussion at future meetings.

Helping Great Britain Work Well

Helping Great Britain Work Well

2016 also saw the launch of the HGBWW campaign. While most people in organisations think of the HSE as 'the enforcer' of the law within the UK, it is also one of the most pro-active and prime movers with regards to health, safety and employee welfare in the UK and continually supports businesses by providing simple and accessible advice whilst also also challenging the Health and Safety ‘Experts’ who can, on occasion, over-prescribe health and safety requirements.

The HGBWW strategy sets out the priority themes for the next five years. The HSE has set six strategic themes that they believe will bring a renewed emphasis on improving the workplace:

  1. Acting together: Promoting broader ownership of health and safety in Great Britain.
  2. Tackling ill-health: Highlighting and tackling the costs of work-related ill health.
  3. Managing risk well: Simplifying risk management and helping business to grow.
  4. Supporting small employers: Giving SMEs simple advice so they know what they have to do.
  5. Keeping pace with change: Anticipating and tackling new health and safety challenges.
  6. Sharing our success: Promoting the benefits of Great Britain’s world-class health and safety system.

The HSE claims a wide range of support from all sectors within the UK and should ensure ownership of the main issues.

Further advice on planning how you are going to achieve the big six above, visit the HSE website.

EU-OSHA's Healthy Workplaces Campaign

EU-OSHA's Healthy Workplaces CampaignIt has long been criticised that the 'health' element of health and safety has been all but forgotten. However, 2016 saw a renewed focus on the subject in the workplace, or, as we like to call it (holisitically) these days, wellbeing. Intrinsic to healthy workplaces is the EU-OSHA's Healthy Workplaces for All Ages campaign which focuses on safe and healthy working conditions throughout a worker's whole working life as good for both workers, business and society as a whole.

The 2016–17 Healthy Workplaces Campaign  has four key objectives:

  1. Promoting sustainable work and healthy ageing from the start of the working life
  2. Preventing health problems throughout the working life
  3. Providing ways for employers and workers to manage occupational safety and health in the context of an ageing workforce
  4. Encouraging the exchange of information and good practice

Healthy Workplaces for all Ages aims to raise awareness of the importance of good occupational health safety and health management throughout an employee's working life. We have supported this campaign in the Astutis offices and you can read plenty of wellbeing tips on our blog.

On the subject of standardisation...

INSHPO has developed the global 'OHS Professional Capability Framework' with the aim of offering greater clarity and standardisation around the OHS professional role. Defining the role of the OHS professional as well as required knowledge and skills, the framework it is designed to promote a high standard of capability among OHS professionals and in turn inform employers and regulators of capabilities; while 'Knowledge' and 'skills' sections offer benchmarks for education and training bodies and OHS professional associations in their development of the detail of certification schemes, educational programs and continuing professional development.

IOSH Blueprint

In a similar vein, IOSH also launched a global competency framework at the Safety and Health Expo in London. Created by IOSH with a cross-sector group of industry experts and set for roll-out in 2017, Blueprint will allow individuals and businesses online access to a shared framework for safety and health skills and capability.

If you are planning on filling a skills-gap this year, take a look at Blueprint - it should help identify which areas would be best to focus your efforts on. More information is available on our website.

2017: Next Steps

In 2017, organisations will need to have broader ownership of health and safety issues, which are expected to boost productivity, but will also bring a new array of challenges. One of the challenges will be to continue the improvements made in safety, whilst ensuring health has the same priority.

The recently released HSE statistics for 2015/2016 show that there is still a lot of work to do with reference to work-related illnesses. The figures published in November 2016 reveal 1.3 million people suffered from a work related illness - with 500,000 suffering from stress and 500,000 suffering from musculoskeletal disorders .

Safety professionals will have their work cut out over the next couple of years trying to deal with the ever-changing workplace and the array of health and safety issues that accompany these changes - and efforts need to be re-doubled so that health is addressed on an equal standing to safety, however difficult to manage this may be. The causes and consequences of poor safety at work can be immediate and often relatively easy to deal with; however, ill health can be more difficult to spot.

Often it takes some time for symptoms to develop, so the connection between cause and effect is less obvious, but once the problems have been recognised and acknowledged, solutions become well documented. Safety professionals will need to consider their health policy and ensure it covers the 3 main areas around health: health promotion, prevention and rehabilitation. In 2017 there really is no excuse for not dealing with health as effectively as we deal with safety.


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Tags: Health & Safety