The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published updated guidance for employers on how to protect the health, safety and welfare of their workers.
The move follows a recent public consultation over the changes, which were proposed after Professor Ragnar Löfsted’s 2011 review found that the Workplace Regulations Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) was in need of updating.
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 cover a wide range of basic health, safety and welfare issues and are applicable to most work environments except for those involving work on construction sites, those who work in or on a ship and those who work below ground at a mine.
General guidance on the Regulations are found in the Workplace Regulations ACOP. ACOPs are not law but do have a special legal status, which means that if the advice in the ACOP is followed by employers they can be confident they are complying with the law.
However, the Workplace Regulations ACOP had not been updated to take account of recent legal changes, and so employers were still at risk of falling foul of the legislation, even if they complied with the ACOP.
“Across HSE we are working hard to ensure that employers have access to good quality advice which makes clear what they need to do to protect workers,” said HSE spokesman, Chris Rowe.
“The revised ACOP has not only been updated, it will help employers understand the regulatory requirements on key issues such as temperature, cleanliness, workstations and seating, toilets and washing facilities,” he added.
Unfortunately, despite the existence of this guidance and the other health and safety rules and regulations that are in place to help employers, workers are continuing to suffer horrific and sometimes fatal injuries at work.
In Milton Keynes last year a worker for a roofing company was killed after falling from a ladder that the HSE described as “unsuitable and badly maintained.”
The 56-year-old was carrying out roofline repairs when he fell to the ground, almost five metres below, and sustained a fatal head injury.
An HSE investigation into the incident raised serious concerns about the equipment that had been used for the work. The choice of extension ladder was apparently inappropriate, and a more rigid system like a tower scaffold should have provided instead.
Alarmingly, the ladder was found to have damaged rungs and missing footers and should not have been in use at all.
HSE inspectors told the court that the man’s death could have been prevented had a better system and equipment been in use.
The company pleaded guilty to two separate breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.
In a separate fatal incident, a 25-year-old mechanic lost his life last year while working for a transport company.
He was attempting to jack up the axle of a double decker HGV trailer when the jack separated from the axle and struck him. He suffered catastrophic head injuries and died at the scene.
The HSE investigation found that the whole operation had been poorly planned and managed, and that the worker should not have been under a vehicle being lifted until it was fully supported by appropriate chassis or axle stands.
The owner of the company was found to have the ultimate responsibility for ensuring the work was properly risk assessed and controlled, that staff were properly trained and that suitable safety measures were put in place.
He was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay costs of £43,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety of Work etc Act 1974 for failing to protect his employees.
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