Commodious | Regulation Changes, Health and Safety News 17/06/21

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

UK REACH Work Programme published by HSE

UK Registration, Evaluation Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (UK REACH) forms part of the UK’s chemical regulatory framework. The framework is one of the strictest in the world, however, still enables decisions to be made that best reflect the UK’s needs.

HSE has announced publication of the UK REACH Work Programme, which covers the operational work it has planned for 2021 and 2022.

Stakeholders are invited to get involved in the discussion and planning of UK REACH via consultations, accredited stakeholder organisations (ASOs) participation, and informal engagement.

Loneliness Awareness Week

Loneliness has never been more on the agenda than currently with people facing self-isolation, local and national lockdowns over the past 12 months. Work conditions have also changed, however, with many people now lone working or working at home. The large shift has highlighted the negative impact of workplace loneliness, that previously has been left unaddressed.

It is widely known that loneliness can negatively impact a person’s wellbeing and health, but a recent study by the UK government has provided further insights into the effects loneliness can have on productivity and performance at work. Aside from the personal effects, it is estimated that loneliness costs the UK economy approximately £2.5 billion each year!

This week (14-18 June 2021) marks Loneliness Awareness Week - a campaign hosted by the Marmalade trusts to improve people’s awareness of loneliness and to get them talking about it. To help tackle problems with loneliness at work, the Government also produced the guidance: ‘Employers and Loneliness.

Health and safety detriment protection extended to workers

Previously, the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA) only protected employees from suffering detriment by their employer. The High Court found that confining this protection to employees was a breach of the EU Health and Safety Framework Directive. Even though the UK has now left the EU, the decision was made prior to the end of the implementation period. 

Regardless of when, or why, the changes will be happening on 31 May 2021. After that date, all employers must have made the required changes to ensure workers are adequately protected in the workplace.

The legislation (Section 44 of the ERA) will be amended to protect workers from detriment when leaving the workplace or refusing to return to the workplace, or when taking appropriate steps to protect themselves and/or others when faced with a serious and imminent danger that they could not be expected to avert.

Acas guidance on working safely during COVID-19 has been updated to reflect the changes.

Vaccines for care home and NHS staff to become mandatory?

Following a consultation launched by the Department of Health and Social Care in mid-April 2021, the Government is planning to introduce mandatory coronavirus vaccinations for care home workers. Until now, employers have had to be more tactful, offering incentives or paid time off to get jabs. 

If the regulations are approved by Parliament, workers will have 16 weeks to make sure they have received both stages of the vaccination. Mr. Hancock said it is a “sensible and reasonable step” and he will be consulting on whether or not to extend it to the NHS also.

The regulations will only be enforced in England, with governments in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales saying they have no plans to make vaccinations mandatory for care staff.

Delay of lockdown restrictions means ‘work form home’ guidance continues

With the full easing of lockdown restrictions postponed for four weeks, it looks likely that there will be no change to the ‘work at home’ guidelines until at least 19 July 2021. This will have significant impacts on employers who have been planning their future around the planned lifting of all restrictions on 21 June.

Among the hardest hit will be the hospitality sector, which will continue to operate under the current guidelines until at least 19 July. The news is particularly disappointing for nightclubs that continue to be required to remain closed.


Civil engineering firm BAM Nuttall fined £700,000 after employee killed by 6-tonne dumper truck

While working at the side of a roadway on a construction site, the employee was struck by a dumper truck. He suffered injuries to his pelvis and subsequently died.

The HSE inspection found that there was no safe system of work in place to segregate people from vehicles and BAM Nuttall pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The firm was fined £700,000.

Builder receives prison sentence after failing to report serious incident on site

On 8 January 2019, a worker’s leg was trapped by an excavator, ultimately resulting in the worker’s foot being amputated. The employer, Surrey Conversions, should have reported the incident to the HSE within ten days under RIDDOR. The HSE was only made aware of the incident when the employee’s solicitors requested disclosure of the appropriate report and dialogue with the HSE, which led to the employee making a complaint.

The HSE prosecuted the builder trading as Surrey Conversions for breaching RIDDOR, to which he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a 24-week imprisonment. 

Failures to report serious incidents correctly under RIDDOR are not taken lightly by HSE as the Regulations provide an important part of the health and safety framework within the UK.