REDUCING THE BURDEN OF HEALTH & SAFETY RULES
Earlier this year the Government launched its plans for reform of the health and safety system in Britain, and an independent review of legislation is currently under way. Here, Heath Freeman, managing director of nationwide crewing company, Pinnacle Crew, looks at what this will mean to the live events industry.
“The burden of health and safety red tape has become too great, with too many inspections of relatively low risk and good performing workplaces, frequently poor health and safety advice to business from badly qualified consultants, and a complex structure for regulation. The time has come for all this to change.”
So said the Government in its March paper “Good Health and Safety, Good for everyone – the next steps in the Government’s plans for reform of the health and safety system in Britain”. And which of us in the live events industry would not agree with that?
Key to the proposed changes is to shift the whole focus of Britain’s health and safety regime to a “lighter touch” approach, concentrating efforts on higher risk industries and on tackling serious breaches of the rules. Those organisations that pose a lesser threat and that do the right thing for their employees will be left free of unwarranted scrutiny.
By and large, the live events industry is well self-regulated, and we should welcome this less intrusive approach. However, there have in recent times been instances of serious injury occurring, so less regulatory intervention does not mean less vigilance on our part.
The Health and Safety Executive will continue to play a central role in the modernisation of regulation and, with local authorities, is charged with ensuring that the regulatory system is focused on better health and safety outcomes and not purely technical breaches of the law, that enforcement is proportionate to risk, that no unnecessary burden is placed on business that manages health and safety effectively, and that a strong deterrent is maintained against those who fail to meet their health and safety obligations.
In terms of the HSE’s own categorisation of industries, the Government’s document suggests that the live events sector falls within “non-major hazard industries” – we cannot possibly be alongside the chemical and offshore sectors that are seen as major hazard industries. The problem is, however, that the live events industry is not specifically mentioned anywhere in the documents the Government has published.
Non-major hazard industries are further sub-categorised into three sectors: those that present comparatively high risk where proactive inspection remains necessary; those where there remains comparatively high risk but proactive inspection is not considered as useful component of future interventions; and, those areas where proactive inspection is not justified in terms of outcomes.
The examples given for the first category are construction, waste and recycling, molten and base metal manufacture. The second category includes agriculture, quarries, and health and social care; and lower risk areas include textile, clothing, footwear manufacturing; light engineering; transport sector; postal and courier services.
It seems logical to me that live events will probably fall into the first of these sub-categories as many of our health and safety issues and operator licences are similar to those in the construction industry; and I believe that venues and events are therefore likely to be subjected to continued proactive inspection.
A welcome fact is that the HSE wants to build and expand its joint working initiatives with industry to promote better health and safety and pass on good practice. However, despite this, its work as the regulator in partnership with the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and the Olympic Delivery Authority to facilitate a safe and successful London 2012 Games, has resulted in the most vague and unstructured health and safety requirements that many of us have ever seen.
More positively, the Government is committed to clamping down on rogue health and safety advisers. To achieve this it has launched an official register of Occupational Health and Safety Consultants for those practitioners who are properly accredited to a professional body. This move will make it easier for us all to access reliable, reputable advice.
Finally, as I write, an independent review of health and safety legislation commissioned by Chris Grayling, the minister for employment, is considering the scope for combining, simplifying or reducing the – approximately 200 – statutes owned by the HSE. This is due to report by the end of October, and we can only hope that this rationalisation of health and safety legislation makes it as straightforward as possible for the live events industry to deliver a healthy and safe working environment.
A version of this article appeared in eventindustrynews: www.eventindustrynews.co.uk