Health and Safety – January 2020Print publication
Government measures to improve building safety; latest sentencing news; medical devices cybersecurity guidance; and more.
Government announces raft of measures to improve building safety standards
On 20 January 2020, warning that the slow pace of improving building safety standards will not be tolerated, the Housing Secretary announced a package of measures to improve building safety in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster in June 2017. Key points are:
- A new building safety regulator will be established within the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). It will be established in shadow form immediately, ahead of being fully established following legislation. The new regulator will raise building safety and performance standards, including overseeing a new, more stringent regime for higher-risk buildings.
- The government will work with local authorities to support them in their enforcement options where there is no clear plan for remediation from building owners.
- Building owners who have not taken action to remove unsafe cladding from their buildings will be named from next month. To speed up remediation, a construction expert will be appointed to review remediation timescales and identify what can be done to improve pace in the private sector.
- The government has published consolidated advice for building owners on the measures they should take to ensure their buildings are safe, including in relation to fire doors.
- The government is seeking views on how to assess and prioritise fire safety risks and how to better understand the complexity of building risk to ensure that an appropriate level of safety is achieved in existing buildings. Responses are requested by 17 February 2020.
- The government is consulting until 13 April 2020 on the current combustible cladding ban, including proposals to lower the 18 metre height threshold to at least 11 metres.
- The government consulted last year on sprinklers and other fire safety measures in new high-rise blocks of flats, including proposals to reduce the trigger height at which sprinkler systems are required. Detailed proposals on how it will deliver the technical review of fire guidance will be set out in February 2020.
- An upcoming Fire Safety Bill will clarify the Fire Safety Order (Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005), requiring residential building owners to fully consider and mitigate the risks of any external wall systems and front doors to individual flats.
On 21 January 2020, the government published its response to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 report, setting out the steps it is taking to implement the report’s recommendations and the wider work it is doing to make buildings safer.
Latest sentencing news
Tesco Stores Limited was fined £733,333 after an elderly customer slipped on water pooling from leaking refrigerator units and suffered multiple injuries which left him unable to bend his leg. The company failed either to cure the underlying blockage or effectively deal with the leakage over an extensive period of time before the incident. The judge found that the company had been highly culpable, the maintenance issues repeatedly reported should have been identified and addressed at area management level, and there was a high likelihood of people slipping and sustaining a material level of injury.
A Sheffield company was fined £700,000 (with full costs of just under £170,000) after a worker was fatally wounded by shrapnel ejected from testing equipment. The HSE inspector said: “This was a tragic and wholly avoidable incident, caused by the failure of the company to identify any additional risks that arise when work processes are adapted. Companies should accurately identify and control all potential hazards in the workplace and thereafter monitor performance through effective supervision.”
A construction company was fined £500,000 after a worker was killed while carrying out demolition work. The HSE investigation found, among other things, that in the weeks before the incident CCTV from overhead cameras showed demolition work had been carried out unsafely. The HSE inspector said: “In the weeks prior to this tragic incident workers were regularly put at an acute risk of falling. This is a case of a company wanting to have good systems to protect the workers, but not paying enough attention to what was actually happening at the site.”
New electrical safety standards in the private rented sector
Please see our recent briefing for details.
Medical device cybersecurity guidance published
The European Medical Device Coordination Group recently published guidance on how to fulfil the cybersecurity requirements of the Medical Devices Regulations (MDRs) . The guidance explains that the MDRs set out new essential safety requirements for all medical devices that incorporate electronic programmable systems and software that are medical devices in themselves. They require manufacturers to develop and manufacture their products in accordance with the state of the art taking into account the principles of risk management, including information security, as well as to set out minimum requirements concerning IT security measures, including protection against unauthorised access.
 Regulation (EU) 2017/745 on medical devices and Regulation (EU) 2017/746 on in vitro diagnostic medical devices, which apply fully from 26 May 2020 and 26 May 2022 respectively.