Home >Warning over new 'bottom-up' HSE inspections

Warning over new 'bottom-up' HSE inspections

19 September 2013

Not enough engineering firms are ready for the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) new focus on ‘competency’, an industry consultant has warned.

Dave Dyer, senior consultant at ABB Consulting, says the HSE has shifted its focus to start explicitly testing competency, which focuses on the competence of individuals relative to safety and the safety culture of an organisation rather than just the systems in place.

He says HSE’s new ‘bottom-up’ approach will closely examine the way an organisation’s most hazardous processes are completed on a day-to-day basis.

He has warned that a failure to demonstrate competency will lead to a full and time-consuming HSE safety audit being carried out and he has urged companies to ensure their safety procedures are watertight.

"We now have a recognition from the HSE that, often, when things do go wrong, people are somewhere behind it. Human error is by far the most frequent cause of loss-of-containment events,” said Dyer.

"Competency testing was previously only ‘implicit’ as part of HSE checks, but there is a far greater focus on it now. The aim is to improve safety, not to catch companies out, but I fear many could be under-prepared for this new attitude.

"Initial research has shown that many companies have yet to have a competency inspection – but the message is to ‘be prepared’, because they are on their way.”

Dyer says the HSE will look at two safety critical tasks at a company – such as tanker loading/unloading – and will deal directly with the people responsible for the task.

They will be asked to provide guidance notes, safety operating procedures and checklists, and will then be observed completing the task.

Dyer said: "This represents a new way of looking at safety for the HSE and there is a chance it could catch companies off-guard. That’s not the aim – the aim is to improve procedures and create safer working environments.

"Ours is an industry that needs no reminding of the gravely serious incidents that can take place when procedures are not followed or when human errors occur.”