Commodious | Regulation Changes, Health and Safety News 09/07/21

A weekly roundup of the most important news concerning health and safety developments, enforcements and regulatory changes.

Updated Building Safety Bill published

On 5 July 2021 the Government published the updated Building Safety Bill (BSB) following Parliamentary discussion and consultation. The updated version of the Bill places considerable new liability on the construction industry via the Defective Premises Act.

Implications of the changes include extending the time residents can seek compensation for substandard construction from 6 years to 15. This extension will apply retroactively, meaning that many people will now be able to pursue cases previously left too long.

The outcome of the changes means that many more claims concerning cladding and external wall systems not complying with the building safety regulations are likely to be brought against contractors, architects and other parties involved in the construction industry. At the same time, it is thought likely that individual leaseholder residents will not be able to finance a case, meaning that the change is likely to miss its intended outcome.

COVID-19 work from home guidance to be lifted

The Prime Minister announced on July 5 2021 that the COVID restrictions will now be set to end on 19 July 2021 in England as the country reaches step 4 of its Roadmap. Part of lifting restrictions means an end of official guidance to work at home whenever possible.

This is great news for employers as businesses will be able to begin opening in full, with greater compliments of staff. However, there will be no obligation for employers to bring employees back to workplaces and it will be down to businesses and individuals to work out the best solution for them.

The key changes of interest to employers include:

  • All businesses will be allowed to reopen and there will be no restrictions on the number of people allowed at any venue.
  • Social distancing rules will be lifted in all but limited circumstances, however, unnecessary close contact with others will be discouraged.
  • There will no longer be a legal requirement to wear a face covering, but guidance will advise on when wearing one may be appropriate.
  • People will no longer be advised to work from home.
  • COVID-status certification will not be required by law as an entry condition to any event or venue.
  • Test and Trace will no longer be legally required in certain businesses.
  • Rules on self-isolation will change, meaning fully vaccinated people will no longer need to self-isolate after coming into contact with somebody who has COVID-19. 

While this is a big step, it is not the end of health and safety obligations for employers with regards to COVID-19. Any returns to work will have to be done in a COVID-secure manner including risk assessments and appropriate control measures.

Government confirms proposal for a single enforcement body for employment rights

The Government has confirmed its response to the 2019 consultation on enforcing employment rights. The new body will enforce breaches with regard to minimum wage, modern slavery and modern slavery statements, employment agencies, statutory sick pay and holiday pay.

The single body will take over the work currently being carried out by HMRC with regard to minimum wage, the labour exploitation and modern slavery responsibilities of the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, and the Employment Agency Standards Ispectorate’s activities in relation to employment agencies.

There is currently no date given for the establishment of the new body, so employers should keep an eye out for any news. In the meantime, the Government’s full response can be read here.


Warehouse management company fined for electrical incident death

A warehouse management company has been fined after an employee died in an accident while servicing an air compressor. The man was carrying out pre-planned maintenance on the air compressor at a distribution centre in Gravesend, but was not found for an hour after the incident occured.

The HSE investigation found control measures to prevent contact with electricity during the maintenance were not sufficient or suitable. No testing had been done on the electrical systems and not even a visual inspection had been carried out since the installation of the unit, meaning an incorrect isolating switch had also not been identified.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and has been fined £180,000. It has also been ordered to pay costs of £23,358.16.

The whole incident was avoidable had the correct safe systems of work been implemented and maintenance procedures been followed by the business.

Faulty break deaths lead to haulage boss and driver to be jailed

The boss of a transport firm and the driver involved in the accident have received jail sentences after a 30-tonne HGV hit a car and killed the two people inside.

The driver was travelling in an articulated truck, carrying a static caravan, that crossed over the central reservation and into the opposite carriageway, colliding with an oncoming car. One passenger of the car died at the scene, while the other later died in hospital.

The driver of the truck had reported, on numerous occasions, that the brakes on the vehicle were faulty in the weeks leading up to the accident and two attempts had, unsuccessfully, been made to identify and repair the fault. The owner of the firm was accused of cutting corners with maintenance and repairs, because a replacement valve would have cost only £200.

The firm owner was convicted of gross negligence manslaughter, receiving a 15 year prison sentence and the HGV’s driver pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving, receiving a 6 year sentence.