Mixed reactions

15 December 2015

Following the publication of new sentencing guidelines on 3 November, some have described the event as: “one of the biggest changes to health and safety enforcement that we have seen in decades.”

The Sentencing Council’s guidelines effectively change the way in which companies are held to account if convicted of corporate manslaughter, health and safety and food safety and hygiene offences.

For a detailed account of how this will affect you and reaction from the industry, turn to page 4 of the latest edition of HSM magazine.

While there has been a positive reaction to the new guidelines, the same cannot be said for the proposed HSE changes to Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) for Construction Design Management (CDM) regulations.

Trade unions have rejected HSE proposals to halt the planned ACoP supporting the CDM Regulations 2015. The Unite union insisted the regulator’s recommendations were: “not worth the paper they are written on,” as HSE officials failed to get the support of the Construction Industry Advisory Committee (CONIAC), who stated that the ACoP is ‘unnecessary’.

“The HSE held a consultation on revisions to CDM in 2013, proposing to replace the ACoP with guidance, arguing the ACoP was too complex to be of use to those who would benefit the most from it,” notes Amy Batch, legal author at legislation analysts Cedrec. “This view was met with strong opposition, with only one third of respondents agreeing it should be removed.

“The HSE then proposed the creation of a new ACoP, with the hope it would ‘add value’. This idea was also refused by the Unite, UCATT and GMB trade unions. As a result, the HSE board were told the proposal could not go ahead.”

According to Batch, the decision to remove a planned ACoP directly stems from the Government’s red tape challenge. “The frustrating element to this news is that, by seeking to cut red tape, HSE board’s solution was to create another ACoP as a replacement,” she added.

“The fact is that ACoPs are highly useful to industry professionals. They offer guidance, clarity and peace of mind that duties and responsibilities are being fulfilled effectively. This is emphasised by their legal status.

“Guidance on the other hand, whilst helpful, is designed to be a brief point of reference. The ACoP is more in-depth, making it the perfect tool for a complex piece of legislation such as the CDM Regulations.

“It is encouraging, therefore, that the plans have been rejected by the industry that actually use and benefit from them.”

Chris Shaw, Editor, Health & Safety Matters