New HSE figures show the desperate need for top quality health and safety management for all businesses

New figure released by the Health and Safety executive show the incredible extent to which people are becoming ill or injured (sometimes fatally) at their place of work.

There were 144 deaths at work in the last year, not including the thousands of deaths each year as a result of past exposure to harmful substances

On top of this, in 2017/18 there were over half a million injuries which occurred in the workplace. And 1.4 million people suffering from work-related illness.

These statistics are truly stunning, and from an economic point of view, truly damaging. The two headlines figures from the HSE were:

  • 7 million working days lost to workplace illness or injury
  • £15 billion – the estimated cost of injuries and illness

To put that into context, if every single employee who was ill or injured at work came from a different employer and had the exact same cost, each employer would be liable for around £10,000.

But we know that’s not the case. We know that the cost of injury or illness can be far, far more than that.

And the penalties might not be financial. With new rules and regulations surrounding corporate manslaughter, if your health and safety isn’t properly and responsibly managed, you could be looking at a lengthy prison sentence.

Below, you can see the figures in full in this diagram taken from the HSE.

We haven’t written this article to alarm you, but the stats are real and the dangers are real too.

If you’d like to talk to a highly professional, highly respected Health and Safety management team, contact Romero Risk Management today.

Construction firms targeted in new health inspections

The Health and Safety Executives will act with more scrutiny in regards to the health standards of construction firms over the coming months.

As part of our service, we ensure that our clients are given the best advice and know their responsibilities for health standards. However, with the health and safety executive increasing checks, we advise that all clients take this opportunity to ensure that their checks and practices are fully compliant and up to date.

The increased scrutiny comes in the form of new inspections which, for the first time, will have a specific focus on occupational lung disease and respiratory risks. Businesses must show that they have measures in place to protect workers’ lungs and that materials such as asbestos are being properly managed.

Here is what HSE’s Peter Baker had to say about the new inspections:

“Around 100 times as many workers die from diseases caused or made worse by their work than are killed in construction accidents. Annually, work-related cancers, mainly linked to asbestos and silica, are estimated to kill 3,500 people from the industry. Thousands of others suffer life-changing illnesses from their work. Not all lung diseases take years to develop. Some, like acute silicosis or occupational asthma, can occur more quickly.

“As a result, we’ve launched this inspection initiative to find out what exactly businesses in the construction industry are doing today to protect their workers’ health, particularly when it comes to exposure to dust and damage to lungs.

“We want construction workers to be aware of the risks associated with the activities they carry out on a daily basis; be conscious of the fact their work may create hazardous dust; and consider how this could affect their health, in some cases irreversibly. We want businesses and their workers to think of the job from start to finish and avoid creating dust or disturbing asbestos by working in different ways. We want to see construction firms encouraging their workers to firstly keep the dust down and wear the right mask and clothing.

“Ultimately, we want construction workers’ lungs to be protected from ill health, so they can go home healthy to their families and enjoy long careers in this important industry.”

The inspections will start in October and we would suggest that all clients in the construction sector contact their Romero risk management executive if they have any questions.

What will change with the new Manslaughter Definitive Guidelines?

On 31st July, the Sentencing Council published new guidance on sentencing for manslaughter cases. The new guidelines will be retrospective, meaning they will apply to any gross negligence manslaughter cases not concluded before the 1st November deadline.

So why is this important to you?

Gross Negligence Manslaughter, where the breach of duty of care by an individual causes or significantly contributes to a death, is the most serious offence that an individual can commit for a health and safety breach. The new sentence guidelines show just how serious the consequences can be. It’s important that your business has the tools in place to avoid such action being taken against you, or your employees.

The guidelines propose four levels of culpability ranging from ‘low’ to ‘very high’, but all of which will result in some form of gaol time. For the lowest level of culpability, culprits can expect a two-year sentence, but this moves up to 8 or 12 years very quickly if a judge determines that new flashpoint features such as cost saving and disregarding very high risk of death, are met.

How is culpability decided?

As previously stated, there are a number of flashpoints or contributing factors that determine an individual’s culpability. For the most part, these are determined based on the level of the negligence, such as if more than one life was put at risk, or that warning were not adhered to.

A high culpability would meet a number of those factors and would result in a gaol term of over ten years. The most common factors are cost saving as a motivation for the breach, and blatant disregard for risk of death. Typically, if either of those two factors aren’t met, the culpability would be considered medium at most. This just shows how important it is that thorough checks are committed and that all risk warnings are actioned.

It is difficult to foresee what a judge would regard as ‘blatant’ disregard, so our advice would be that any disregard could fall into that category.

In cases where the culpability is considered ‘very high’, both cost saving and high disregard for death will be found. Sentences for this level of culpability range from 10 to 18 years.

Very high culpability cases range in type and scenario. Consider the case of Indian takeaway shop owner, Mohammed Zaman of Huntington, who was found guilty of the manslaughter of customer, Paul Wilson, after he had replaced almond powder with ground nut mix as part of a cost-cutting exercise. Zaman showed a blatant disregard for the safety of his customers by showing a ‘no-nuts’ message in his menu. He also triggered the cost-saving factor.

Another very recent and high profile case is that of Grenfell Tower. The investigation is still ongoing, but it is very possible gross negligence manslaughter sentences will be considered, given the repeated ignored warnings that the tower wasn’t safe, and the cost saving on the cladding.

Risk Management

We asked our Risk Director, Jane Dronsfield, what impact she thought the new guidelines would have:

“Following implementation of the Guidelines, we expect a rise in the sentences handed down in manslaughter cases, with lengthier, custodial sentences and fewer suspended sentences. The old guidelines allowed for a much higher degree of judiciary discretion, whereas the new guidelines seek to create a framework taking into account the culpability of the offender. Culpability categories are defined with reference to a number of factors set out in the Guidelines. Whilst a number of the factors would not necessarily be relevant in the context of workplace deaths, there are many factors that are common within many of the cases we see, which could potentially push offenders up through the category ranges. One example would be where the offender showed a blatant disregard for a very high risk of death resulting from negligent conduct and the negligent conduct was motivated by financial gain (or avoidance of cost).

We have seen a sharp increase in the number of individuals being prosecuted for health and safety related offences.

Gross Negligence Manslaughter is not just an offence that can be directed towards senior management in a business following a workplace death; any person can be implicated.”

If you’d like to speak to Jane, or any of our fantastic risk management department about how you can stay on top of your risk management, use the contact form on the top of this page. Remember, in gross negligence cases, inaction is a crime.

Romero says RELAX

A recent report from the Safer Tourism Foundation revealed a worrying trend in unnecessary deaths and accidents in holiday swimming pools, with an estimated 500 serious pool related incidents every year.

A survey of 2000 adults in the UK showed that 1 in 12 had witnessed a serious incident at the pool. More than 1 in 3 were fearful of an incident occurring.

These figures are staggering and show just how dangerous an environment it can be if proper risk management procedures aren’t in place.

The STF say that lack of supervision, diving into shallow water or becoming entangled in filtration systems are among the main causes of the incidents.

They suggest that parents could have done more to protect their children in many cases.

RELAX

This summer, the STF launched a campaign called RELAX, designed to help parents make the pool a safer environment for their children.  RELAX stands for:

RECCE the pool environment when you first arrive at your accommodation. 

EYES on the kids – keep a look out always (whether it’s you or someone you trust).

 LIFESAVING techniques.  Make sure you or someone you are with knows how to save lives. 

ARMBANDS – If they are needed, make sure they stay on at all times. 

EXPLAIN to children how to use the pool safely.

According to the STF, the campaign has been devised to encourage parents to take more notice of the way their children are playing and ensure that they understand the dangers that are present. Just because they’re on holiday, they can’t pay any less attention than they would in a swimming pool at home.

How can UK businesses adapt this message?

With the heatwave still in full flow, families don’t have to go abroad to make use of holiday swimming. Many seaside resorts have lidos and open air swimming baths, while many clubs and venues have set up large temporary swimming pools to attract business.

Whilst parents have the ultimate responsibility for supervising their children, some pools have a legal requirement to provide lifeguards. This changes from pool to pool in the UK dependant on size. The laws are even more inconsistent abroad.

Pool owners and operators must know the law and have a robust Risk Management programme to ensure compliance is achieved at all times. They also need a good unannounced external audit programme so they can demonstrate compliance if they need to.

Since the introduction of the New Sentencing Guidelines, fines have soared in value and number so there is a business case for pro-active programmes to avoid/reduce fines. Coupled with the introduction of the No Harm category, regulatory action can be taken without prior accident or incident. That makes the risk for owners and operators even higher.

Stay safe this summer

There are 25 drownings in holiday pools every year. Let’s make sure that the proper risk management procedures are followed so we don’t add to that number.

Romero Risk Management can help with all needs, ranging from a high level Safety Management System review down to unannounced audits of your venues. Give us a call on 0113 281 8110 or email us at risk@romeroinsurance.co.uk for a no-obligation conversation.