Health and Safety News

Fee for Intervention Scheme charges can be offset against corporation tax

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Fee for Intervention (FFI) Scheme fees can now be offset against corporation tax, according to the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

This clarification has been a delayed response to requests in 2012 by magazine Taxation, suggesting that the Government organisation was still considering the tax implications.

The HMRC have confirmed that FFI payments will be governed by guidance on fines and administrative charges, according to Health and Safety at Work magazine. This guidance states:

“Where a trader incurs a liability to a regulatory body on revenue account that is broadly intended to cover the regulator’s costs of performing its duties in relation to the trading activities, such costs will normally be allowable even where the trader has committed a breach of regulations.”

This implies that FFI charges are a means of covering administrative costs of identifying and sorting breaches of the law or serving enforcement notices in contrast with the belief these charges are to penalise businesses. This would seem to suggest that they can be used offset tax bills.

At the moment, the average bill after confirmed breaches is around £500. The FFI charge for an hour of inspectors’ time is around £124 when identifying a breach. Inspectors find chargeable breaches on around 60% of their visits.

This could be subject to change as the FFI has been under scrutiny by a panel, after the Government accepted recommendations that the charging scheme should be overhauled.

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HSE prosecute firm following death

Turfgrass Services International Ltd has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) because of breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, which led to the death of one of its employees, Lee Woodhouse.

Mr Woodhouse had been using a turf harvester but had encountered some technical issues with the operation of the machine. Later in the day, a nearby resident noticed that the machine had stopped against a tree and its wheels were still turning, but the driver was missing.

A co-worker then went to investigate and found Mr Woodhouse lying on the ground. A subsequent HSE investigation found that Mr Woodhouse had been run over by the machine whilst walking alongside it in order to observe or adjust the cut-off mechanism at the front end, which had been causing issues earlier in the day.

The HSE found that a wire link had been put across the terminals of a relay switch, which defeated a number of safety features on the machine, including the cut-off switch attached to the driver's seat. That switch was designed to cut the operation of the machine if the driver was not in the seat.

The company had also failed to to take several key steps including: identifying the risks of using the machines, training operators and supervisors properly, protecting employees from access to dangerous parts of the machines and to make sure the harvesters were maintained safely and checked regularly.

As a result of the prosecution, Turfgrass Services International Ltd were fined £67,000 and ordered to pay £33,000 in costs.

HSE inspector Andrea Jones said, “This was a tragic incident that has had devastating, and life-changing effects, on the whole family, particularly Lee’s wife, two small children and his parents. The incident was entirely preventable.

“Agricultural machines are inherently dangerous and this turf harvesting machine had a number of safety features to protect operators. The seat switch should have stopped the harvesting machinery when the operator leaves the seat. Had the vital seat switch not been disabled, there would have been no reason for Mr Woodhouse to have been observing the cutters at the front of the machine whilst it continued to move forwards in the field.”

Ms Jones also added, “It is essential that all employers with machines for use on farms and in the turf-cutting industry put systems in place for checking all safety guarding regularly, and provide training and supervision to make sure machines are not operated with missing or defeated safety functions. All operators must be trained in safe systems of work in relation to making adjustments and clearing blockages in machines.”

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HSE launch consultation on safety changes for self-employed

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched a consultation on changes to the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

The Act, which celebrates its 40th birthday this summer, was proposed to be changed by Professor Ragnar Löfstedt. In November 2011, Prof Löfstedt suggested ideas to amend the Act to make exemptions for self-employed people who posed no potential risk of harm to others through work activity.

After a consultation, the proposals were redrafted to clarify which work activities and self-employed people could be exempt from the Act's precedents, and a prescribed list has been drafted. This list includes a number of activities that could cause harm to members of the public, or if that self-employed person is employed in an industry where there are a high number of injuries or fatalities, such as agriculture. Other factors, such as employment location, have also been identified as exempt to the proposed amendments, for example, fairgrounds, where the public and workers are at risk, will not be exempt from the Act.

Further exceptions to the proposals include European obligations to retain general duty on self-employed people, for example in construction, where Council Directive 92/57/EEC sets out duties for the self-employed for health and safety requirements at temporary or mobile construction site.

The HSE did state on the consultation draft that there was no guarantee the proposals would receive Royal Assent in the current form, and encourage any comments or responses to the draft to be sent to them by 31 August 2014.

For more information, see the:

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Happy birthday to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974!

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is 40 years old this summer!

To remind readers, this Act was implemented in the summer of 1974 and has been credited with being one of the most important pieces of legislation in the health and safety mission to keep workers safe and protected.

Philip Johnston, writing for The Telegraph, believes the Act has saved as many as 5000 lives since it was implemented.

Prior to the Act, an estimated 700 employees were dying every year, and the number of injuries is in the hundreds of thousands. This number has reduced to 148 injuries for 2013. Mr Johnston compares this number to the number of fatalities in Qatar. To build the World Cup stadium in Qatar for 2022, since 2012 there have been approximately 500 deaths.

The Act itself has been invaluable, no doubt about that, however it is one of the more commonly complained about pieces of legislation. Incidents where England flags have been removed due to “Health and Safety” have left members of the public fuming, however, are such measures truly a matter of Health and Safety?

The bulk of the Act refers mainly to high standards of safety measures to be in place at workplaces, and the majority of these measures are common sense. The Act exists only to ensure those sensible measures are used. To go against this Act is arguably done out of recklessness. It is much easier to take a flag down from scaffolding or to ensure wet floors are signposted, than it is to explain to a worker why they have been hospitalised for tripping or slipping, after all.

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Builder acts as gas fitter in Hyde, puts lives at risk

A builder in Hyde has been caught carrying out illegal gas work at two homes after an investigation found he had left a boiler in a “dangerous condition.”

Monwar Ali, 40, is being prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after a home on Norbury Avenue and another on Harbour Farm Road were left with faulty boilers. These put the lives of both families at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The Norbury Avenue address had paid Mr Ali £21,000 to carry out a loft conversion in 2011. As part of this, he removed the flue pipe which connects to the boiler. Such a procedure requires a qualified, registered professional. The pipe was left disconnected for almost two months.

In the case of the Harbour Farm Road address, Mr Ali had fraudulently provided the family with a Gas Safe Register logo on his quotes, and was subsequently paid nearly £50,000 to build a two storey extension, and moved the gas boiler on two occasions.

Mr Ali has pleaded guilty to six breaches of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations SI 1998/2451 between 28 December 2010 and 31 August 2011. He was sentenced to 220 hours unpaid work to be completed within 12 months and to pay £2,000 towards prosecution costs.

Russel Kramer, Chief Executive of Gas Safe Register has stressed the importance of safe gas work, advising prospective customers to check all Gas Safe engineers carry a valid Gas Safe ID card. Customers can also call 0800 408 5500 or visit www.gassaferegister.co.uk to ensure their gas engineer is fully qualified.

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New guidance on musculoskeletal disorders published

The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) has brought out new guidance on musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in the workplace.

MSDs are conditions affecting the musculoskeletal system. They often appear in the tendons, muscles, joints, blood vessels and/or nerves of the limbs and back.

The Guide on the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace aims to bring together information from different sources on the prevention and management of MSDs in the workplace.

This may be seen by some as essential guidance at a time when MSDs have been cited as the leading cause of work disability in the European Union (EU).

A massive 29% (34,654 days) of all absences in Northern Ireland councils (local authorities) were due to musculoskeletal problems or back and neck problems according to the Northern Ireland Audit Office 2010.

The guide advises that the main elements for preventing MSDs are policy on prevention and management of MSDs, risk assessments and safe systems of work plans (SSWPs), training, accident and near miss reporting and investigation, injury management (retention, rehabilitation and return to work) and internal auditing.

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Consultation on revised DSEAR ACOP

A consultative document has been published, which seeks views on HSE's proposed revised version of the Approved Code of Practice on the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations SI 2002/2776 (DSEAR), L133 – Unloading petrol from road tankers.

The key changes include:

  • increased emphasis on the importance of complying with the risk assessment elements of DSEAR;
  • expanded sections on overfill and spillage to provide further guidance in relation to these issues;
  • clearer definitions of some terms, for example maximum working capacity of storage tanks;
  • reorganisation of the text to ensure clarity on what is required to comply with the law for the various parties involved;
  • signposting to separate HSE guidance on working at height which enables the ACOP to focus on the key DSEAR elements of unloading of petrol.

The Regulations are unchanged and so there are no new requirements for compliance.

Responses should be received by the HSE by 22 July 2014

For more information,see:

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Consultation on the alignment of safety regulations with CLP

A consultative document has been published, which outlines proposals on the alignment of health and safety regulations with the EU direct acting Classification, Labelling and Packaging Regulation (EC) 1272/2008 (CLP Regulation).

The CLP Regulation progressively replaces the Dangerous Substances Directive 1967/548/EEC (DSD) and the Dangerous Preparations Directive 1999/45/EC (DPD), which deal with the classification, hazard communication and packaging of chemicals.

The key changes include:

  • the United Nations Globally Harmonised System (GHS) will be used across Europe and the United Nations for the classification and labelling of chemicals;
  • any existing European classification system and hazard warning symbols will be replaced by the Globally Harmonised System (GHS) and a new set of hazard pictograms.

Responses should be received by 22 July 2014.

For more information, see:

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Move over, Rover and let health and safety take over!

Organisers of the annual Scruffs dog show in Keswick, Cumbria took the decision to remove 'highest frisbee catch' from its line-up of events due to health and safety concerns.

There were also fears for the 'highest biscuit catcher' event, however this was turned into a sitting down event and went ahead, alongside other events such as the 'dog with the most appealing eyebrows'.

Tony Lywood, a town councillor and one of the show's organisers, said: “A couple of members of our organising committee, who have experience of larger scale dog shows, suggested there may be risks to dogs that jump high to catch frisbees.

“We did some due diligence and reluctantly agreed that we should scrap the frisbee category and amend the biscuit catching category so that the dogs are sitting down. It is a strange and bizarre decision to make, but one which I suppose we had to make if there is a risk that animals could get hurt.”

He added: “In shows elsewhere, there have been occasions where dogs have jumped high and twisted their back, and there was one where the dog had to be put down.”

The Kennel Club, the country's biggest charity devoted to protecting the welfare of dogs, has twice previously named Keswick as the most dog friendly town in the UK.

A spokesman backed the decision of the show's organisers. “The Kennel Club encourages fun sports and activities for dogs in order to keep them fit and healthy. But it has concerns about the game of frisbee, particularly in its more extreme forms.

“While it can be safe in controlled conditions, if it is thrown at great heights or awkward angles, leading the dog to jump and twist, it can cause strain and injury on landing so care should always be taken.”

Editor's note

We must have missed the amendment that said animals were covered under safety legislation…!

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HSE to target health in construction

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched a two week drive in order to check ill health on construction sites. The HSE will make unannounced visits to construction sites across Britain, but will be specifically looking at respiratory risks from dusts such as silica materials, exposure to other hazardous substances such as cement and lead paint, manual handling, noise and vibration.

Poor working conditions could lead to ill health, especially on construction sites. For instance, it is believed that over 500 deaths a year are caused by exposure to silica. It is hoped that these targeted inspections will help to reduce death, injury and ill health in the construction sector.

HSE Chief Inspector of Construction, Heather Bryant, said, “The construction sector has made good progress in reducing the number of people killed and injured by its activities. We need to tackle where workers are unnecessarily being exposed to serious health risks, such as silica dust, which can have fatal or debilitating consequences.

“This initiative provides a chance to engage with these firms to help them understand what they need to do, so they can put in place the practical measures needed to keep people safe.”

Ms Bryant also issued a stark warning, saying, “However, let me be clear – poor risk management and a lack of awareness of responsibilities is unacceptable. Companies who deliberately cut corners can expect to feel the full weight of the law.”

For more information, see:

  • INDG463 – Control of exposure to silica dust;
  • Manual Handling Operations Regulations SI 1992/2793;
  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations SI 2002/2677;
  • Control of Noise at Work Regulations SI 2005/1643.
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