Health and Safety – March 2018

Print publication


New Code of Practice for product safety recalls, sentencing update, new international standard and other news.

New Code of Practice for product safety recalls

The British Standards Institution (BSI) and the new Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) have launched the first ever government-backed Code of Practice for product safety recalls in the UK called PAS 7100. The creation of OPSS and the Code of Practice follow on from recommendations set out in the July 2017 report of the Working Group on Product Recalls and Safety, to which the government responded in January 2018.

The Code of Practice, which is voluntary, is divided into two parts. The first part is focused on non-food consumer products and is aimed at manufacturers, importers and distributors. Among other things, it includes details of how a business can monitor the safety of products and plan for a product recall. The second part is aimed at regulators (including local authority Trading Standards) and sets out details of how they can support businesses in their preparation of a product safety incident plan, monitoring of incidents and implementation of corrective action. The Code is accessed through the BSI’s website.

In other news, OPSS carried out its first enforcement action when it fined a British timber operator £4,000 for breaching regulations which require businesses trading in timber and timber products in the UK to ensure that their products originate from legal sources.

Sentencing update including latest wave of £1 million-plus fines

  • Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust has been fined £2 million for failings relating to the deaths in 2012 and 2013 of two patients in its care.
  • Martin Baker Aircraft Company Limited was fined £1.1 million (and ordered to pay costs of £550,000) after a Red Arrows pilot died when his ejection seat failed due to a mechanical fault. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the company had “failed to take all reasonably practicable steps to protect users from the risk of harm after it was told of concerns regarding the shackles which deployed the main parachute”.
  • A plastic product manufacturer was fined £1 million following the death of a delivery driver who had been struck by a fork lift truck. The HSE inspector said: “There are more than 5,000 accidents involving transport in the workplace every year, and, like in this case, sadly some of which are fatal. The HSE investigation found the yard was not organised to allow safe circulation of people and traffic as appropriate routes were not identified and therefore insufficient in number. A properly implemented Traffic Management Plan should have identified sufficient measures for the separation of vehicles and people including protected walkways, clear signage and barriers”.
  • Poundworld received a total fine of more than £1.1 million for a combination of health and safety and food safety offences at one of its high street stores. Croydon Council food safety officers had been alerted to an out-of-control rodent infestation, and found a number of other health and safety issues in the store. According to Croydon Council’s press release, Poundworld was acquired in 2015 by Poundworld Bidco Limited on behalf of funds controlled by TPG Capital, a global private equity investment firm with assets worth more than US$ 80 billion. The sentencing judge said that, “in the absence of being given sufficient reliable information” she was “entitled to draw reasonable inferences that Poundworld can pay any fine”, after a request for details of TPG were declined on the basis that Poundworld, TPG and other companies are not linked organisations.
  • Network Rail Infrastructure Limited was fined £733,000 for failing to undertake adequate maintenance to prevent a freight train derailment. The Office of Rail and Road found that Network Rail’s short and medium term repairs were ineffective and a planned long term solution had not been implemented – “it was only a matter of time before a derailment took place, creating a genuine risk to passengers and the public”.

HSE issues new advice to employers on manual handling risks

The HSE recently issued new web-based advice for employers on how to tackle musculoskeletal disorder risks in the workplace. The accompanying press release quoted the following from the launch event: “Our research shows that simplistic training involving bending your knees to lift a cardboard box is just a waste of time and money, it just doesn’t make any difference. The overall aim is to avoid and reduce manual handling, and that’s where employers should start if their workforce faces manual handling risks. Don’t start with training, start with re-organising and redesigning your working practices. If you do need staff training, and there are many residual risks where this is the case, then this needs to be customised and professionally delivered. Any such training should be based on observations of current working practices, and should be informed by the views and experience of the workforce”.

New occupational health and safety standard published

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) standard ISO 45001 (‘Occupational health and safety management systems – Requirements’) has now been published. See this link for further details. The BSI reports that ten companies have already achieved conformity to the new standard.

Industry working groups inform independent review of building regulations and fire safety

Dame Judith Hackitt has heard advice from the chairs of various industry working groups established following the publication of her interim report in December 2017 and a summit meeting held in January 2018. She will now consider their advice as she develops the recommendations for her final report, which is due to be published in spring 2018. The working groups were asked to consider how to develop elements of a more effective building regulations and fire safety system. See the government’s press release for more information.

Construction sector invited to stand down for health and safety campaign

On 18 April 2017, organisations from the UK infrastructure sector took part in the first UK-wide health and safety stand-down under the ‘Stop. Make a Change’ initiative, which was launched in November 2016 and is aimed at promoting health and wellbeing. The event is being expanded this year to include the whole of the UK construction sector. It will run for a two-week period from 16 April and will focus on the priorities of mental health and plant safety. Further details can be found here.