Health and safety policy and practice


It is a controversial point as to how much liability would be taken on by a third party in the event of an accident. Competence within the Health and Safety arena Competence plays an exceptionally important role in controlling health and safety risks. Risk control systems rely on a multifaceted mix of: 1. Hardware, for example automatic guards and cut offs on machinery. 2. Software, for example planned maintenance, competent employees, adequate supervision, safety rules, training and information. 3. Human factors, for example safety culture.

4. Safety management systems.

The role of people in controlling is central to present guidance, whilst this is important in normal situations, it is essential in abnormal and emergency situations. The Hazard Forum Guidelines (2007) state that for a person to be competent, they require ‘qualifications, experience, and qualities appropriate to their duties’ these include: 1. Training as would ensure acquisition of the necessary knowledge of the field for the tasks that they are required to perform. 2. Knowledge and understanding of the working practices used within the organisation for which they work.


Adequate knowledge of the hazards and failures of the equipment for which they are responsible. 4. Has the ability to communicate effectively with their peers, and with any staff member who is working under their supervision, and with their supervisors. In addition, the HSE states that, ‘for a person to be competent, they need qualifications, experience, and qualities appropriate to their duties. ‘ (HSE, 2007) In essence, competence can only be determined by assessing the individual against the activities being managed, thus it is something that employers can only do within their organisations.

However, for certain industries, there are more specific prerequisite of competency, for example within the health and safety of electricity, Electricity at Work Regulations 1989. (Table 1, Appendix: 16) Electricity has become fundamental to our way of life, however, treated with complacency it can result in serious injury or even death. Although the numbers of accidents at work involving electricity are small by comparison with the total for all causes (less than 0. 5 per cent) (Tolley’s, 2009: 413).

Arguably, (author, 2009) using accident data as a primary measure of performance can highlight inadequacies, for example, failure and not success is being measured, there maybe under reporting of accidents, evidence of previous failures may not predict future ones, and there are limitations in high consequence, low probability situations. Factors affecting competency In industry, if all employees are to make a maximum contribution to health and safety there must be appropriate arrangements in place to ensure that they are competent.

In addition to training, employees will require to gain experience of being able to apply skills and knowledge gained under sufficient supervision. (HSG65: 26). Human error and safety culture are one of the largest causes of accidents within the health and safety arena, (HSE, 2007) the following are some factors which can affect this: 1. Lack of training and experience 2. Skills and knowledge 3. Personality and attitudes to work and management 4. Existing culture within the work place 5. Time pressures inflicted by management 6. Work loads and competing interests

Worker Complacency Concurrent with the increase of regulations came worker complacency, an example of this within the mining industry ‘never before had mine workers ‘enjoyed’ such high levels of safety protection’, increased numbers of high visibility systems and new technology. Nevertheless, the negative effect of this situation highlighted that despite these measures being put into place there was still capacity for complacency. Indeed it could be argued that increasing over confidence and complacency brought about incompetence within the work place.

Promoting a positive health and safety culture Communication Control Framework Figure 2 Source: Harrison, T. Paddock, P. Lecture presentation (2008) Conclusion In conclusion, risks do not take care of themselves; they have to be managed with effective management systems. From the research undertaken for this report, it would appear that competence is often open to neglect and criticism, and there are numerous definitions presented on competency, ultimately may lead to confusion and misinterpretation of competency and the law.

Furthermore, it may well lead to the position where employers believe that they have the appropriate competent advice although they may in fact be exposing themselves to both criminal and civil actions should there be an accident. Conversely, it can be suggested that competency cannot be argued, the risk of significant or serious injury, whether to an employee, contractor, or customer has to be pivotal, therefore if employees and employers adhere to legislation, the risks involved at work will be minimised. Word Count – 2096 Appendix Competence within Health and Safety legislation Table 1 Page 16

Competent stages for an individual Figure 3 Page 18 Human failure and accidents Table 2 Page 19 Scaffolding collapse in Cardiff Figure 4 Page 20 Competence within health and safety legislation Competence is not in general defined in law except in the examples shown below; therefore, the onus is on the employer or duty holder to decide who is sufficiently competent to perform particular duties (Stranks, 2005: 149). The following pieces of health and safety legislation relate to the competence or the appointment of a competent person. Health and Safety Regulation and year

Competency required Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, Although competence is not directly mentioned, the following phrase implies its relevance. ‘no person is to carry out work activity where technical knowledge or experience is necessary to prevent danger or injury, unless he has such knowledge or is under the appropriate degree of supervision’ (Stranks, J 2005: 125) Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 1994 Suggests that competence should be taken into consideration. (Stranks, J 2005: 385) Construction (Health, Safety, and Welfare) Regulations 1996

Activities such as inspections, examinations, operations, installation of scaffolding, demolition, dismantling and supervisory duties must be undertaken by a competent person. (Stranks, J 2005: 401) Fire Precautions (Work Place) Regulations 1997 There is a requirement within the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHASW) 1999, which the employer appoints one or more competent persons to assist with the compliance of this legislation. (Stranks, J 2005: 329) Health and Safety (Young Persons) Regulations 1997 The requirement specifies that young persons are to be supervised by a competent person.

Noise at Work Regulations 1989 Requires the use of a competent person to make a noise assessment’ (Stranks, J 2005: 285) Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 The safety manager is employed to advise the employer on safety issues and to deal with safety matters and will be considered as a competent person, for the purpose. (Penn, 2005: 84) The Control of Asbestos (Licensing) Regulations 1983 A competent person must undertake the supervision of training, and competent employers are issued with licences to operate. (Stranks, J 2005: 401)

The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 requires that there are competent persons for hand signalling and the servicing of electrical fire warning systems. (Stranks, J 2005: 406) The Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000 states ‘a competent person is defined as a competent individual who provides advice to the user or owner, is able to certify the schemes of examination and undertakes examinations’ (Stranks, J 2005: 401) The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 Defines the duties of responsible person that must be competent. (Stranks, J 2005: 206)

Table 1 – Competence within health and safety legislation Source: Stranks, 2005/2006 and Penn 2005 These regulations are further supported by an Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) which has been produced by the Health and Safety Executive. Human failure and accidents Accident, Injury and date Consequence Human contribution and other causes Three mile island Nuclear Industry 1979 Serious damage to the core of the nuclear reactor Operators failed to diagnose a stuck open valve due to poor design of the control panel, distraction of 100 alarms activating, inadequate operator training.

Maintenance failures had occurred before but no steps had been taken to prevent them from recurring. Kings Cross Fire Transport Sector 1987 A fire at the underground station in London killed 31 people A discarded cigarette probably set fire to grease and rubbish underneath one of the escalators. Organisational had resulted in poor escalator cleaning. The fire took hold because of the wooden escalator, the failure of water fog system and inadequate fire and emergency training of staff. A culture viewed fires as inevitable. Union Carbide Bhopal, India Chemical processing plant 1984 The plant released a cloud of toxic methyl isocynate.

Death toll was 2,500 and over one quarter of the cities population was affected by the gas. The leak was caused by a discharge of water into a storage tank. This was the result of a combination of operator error, poor maintenance, and failed safety systems and poor safety management. Piper Alpha Offshore 1988 167 workers died in the North Sea, after a major explosion and fire on an off shore platform Formal enquiry found a number of technical and organisation failures. Maintenance error that eventually led to the leak was the result of inexperience, poor maintenance procedures, and poor learning by the organisation.

There was a breakdown in communications and the permit to work system at change over of shifts and safety procedures were not practiced sufficiently. Table 2 – Some illustrative major accidents due to human failure Source: Reducing Error, Influencing behaviour (HSG48) Figure 4 – Scaffolding collapse, Cardiff. Source: HSE (2007) Two building companies were fined a total of i?? 320 000 after twelve storeys of scaffolding partially collapsed onto a road and railway in Cardiff. Nobody was hurt as the incident occurred late at night.

The collapse, which happened in December 2000, caused major disruption as the road and railway were closed for five days. An HSE investigation identified a catalogue of errors, which contributed to the collapse: 1. The scaffold design was defective in certain areas. In particular, the design drawing for the scaffolders did not provide adequate information on the number, location, and make-up of the ties. 2. A decision was taken at site level by the contracts manager and scaffolder to change the design, without checking with the designer. This was because the design drawing supplied was poorly prepared and ambiguous.

3. Ninety-one anchor ties were installed, rather than the required 300. There were no drilled fixings in the topmost six meters of the scaffolding. 4. The principal contractor did not carry out checks on either the design of the scaffolding or the adequacy of the installation. A scaffolding register was not completed, nor was there a system for carrying out weekly inspections of the scaffolding. The number of ties installed was not checked at hand-over, nor had any been tested. 5. HSE inspector who led the investigation, said: ‘This is the worst scaffold collapse I have investigated.

It is only a matter of good fortune that nobody was injured. Had the incident happened during the daytime, the consequences could have been catastrophic. ‘ 6. Since the incident, the principal contractor has re trained over forty engineers in the competency of scaffold inspection, and the scaffolding contractor has carried out a company wide retraining programme. On reflection, there are areas which can be criticised where human competency, coupled with a lack of knowledge, taking shortcuts and cutting costs, maybe responsible for the delude of this accident.

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