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A changing role

08 November 2013

The Health & Safety Executive recently threw down a challenge to the forklift industry to take a leadership role in trying to drive down forklift related fatalities and injuries. At the recent Safety Conference held by the Fork Lift Truck Association, Jane Willis, cross-cutting interventions director, Health & Safety Executive gave the keynote address.

There is no room for complacency as the statistics show. In 2012, there were six forklift related fatalities, and by September in 2013 there had been six deaths, so there is a real danger that the death toll could be rising.

Willis says: "We are acutely aware of the consequences when forklifts not used correctly, behind the statistics are real people.

"We want the industry’s managers to be leaders and to be personally involved in safety practices. They should not accept bland assurances that everything will be alright. We want to drive cultural change through good leadership, if we achieve this we don’t need lots of regulation.”

The HSE has, as a result of the Lofstedt Report, been trimming its regulations. In the forklift sector, this can be seen in several packages of regulatory revocations. Consolidation of dated sectoral legislation is expected next year.

In addition, RIDDOR reporting requirements are being simplified, some self employed people (office or home based) have been exempted from health and safety legislation, and approvals of first aid training providers are being removed. 

The HSE insists this streamlining will be achieved without lowering standards.

Willis explains: "Since 2009 and the Be part of the solution campaign, there have been a lot of reviews of the role of the HSE. We have reduced regulations and are reviewing ACoPs.

"The focus is now on higher risk areas and poor performers. It is about making it easier for businesses to know what to do.

"We regard competence as important and we define this as recognising the real risks, and taking action to manage them, whatever your role in the company.”


The HSE has also responded to the increasing mis-use of health and safety, where it is sometimes used by organisations as a cover to withdraw services for other reasons, for example, due to budget issues.

The HSE launched its Myth Busters Challenge Panel in 2012, which is a resource dedicated to exposing health and safety myths from rebuttal to analysis and remedy. People are urged to contact the HSE with instances of inappropriately applied health and safety regulations.

"Health and safety has been mis-used and trivialised and we cannot have the ridicule of such as serious subject,” says Willis.

"Our Myth Busters Challenge Panel is very successful and has resonated with a lot of people. We need to find out who is trivialising health and safety and why and we need to push back.”

The Executive has also updated its online toolbox - Health & Safety made Simple - and recommends that managers and supervisors refer to it as a resource. 

Fee for Intervention

A significant recent change from the Health & Safety Executive is Fee For Intervention. FFI is a cost recovery scheme, which came into effect on 1 October 2012.

Under The Health and Safety (Fees) Regulations 2012, those who break health and safety laws are liable for recovery of HSE’s related costs, including inspection, investigation and taking enforcement action.

Willis explains: "There will be fewer overall inspections but those that take place will be targeted to those areas where there is greatest risk. There will be fewer proactive inspections in lower risk areas aimed at companies who have historically met their obligations.

"FFI is another tool, and is not being deployed instead of notices and prosecutions. We are being overseen and we need to show we are transparent about the fees we charge.”

The HSE is accountable as a regulator and the Regulators' Compliance Code has been amended to ensure regulators give consideration to earned recognition, and offer minimum service standards.

It also ensures regulators take account of stakeholders’ needs and the economic impact of their actions. HSE has been told to engage business more, to consult with them when changing policy and approach and take account of their possible economic ramifications.

The HSE has also published a Local Authority National Code in a bid to ensure a consistent approach to enforcement.

The HSE is trying to create a health and safety culture where ‘Every Contribution Counts’.

Willis concludes: "We urge managers to take ownership of risk and manage it while driving cultural change by winning hearts and minds. We must challenge the complacency that comes with the ‘that’s the way we do business around here’ attitude.

"We also urge firms to involve their workers as this improves health and safety performance, with engagement ensuring active participation. It leads to better informed decisions and develops a positive health and safety culture.

"Effective health and safety management needs competence at all levels. Those involved are best placed to determine what competence is needed and can determine what is sensible and reasonable. Above all, this rationale needs to be regularly refreshed or complacency can set in.”


Managing health and safety

A good management system will help you to identify problem areas, decide what to do, act on decisions made and check that the steps taken have been effective. A good system should involve:

• Planning - Identify key areas of risk and set goals for improvement.

• Organisation - Workers need to be involved and committed to reducing risks.

• Control - Check to ensure that working practices and processes are being carried out properly.

• Monitor and review - Monitor accident investigation and inspection reports. Try to identify any deficiencies in your management arrangements.