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Health and safety

Published on 21 January 2019

In this chapter of our Annual Insurance Review 2018, we look at the main developments in 2017 and expected issues in 2018 in the health and safety sector.

Key developments in 2018

As we discussed in last year’s insurance review, new sentencing guidelines were brought in on 31 July for gross negligence manslaughter cases. These took effect on 1 November.

The Sentencing Council has placed particular emphasis on harsher sentences in situations where “the negligent conduct was motivated by financial gain” and where the “offender showed a blatant disregard for a very high risk of death resulting from the negligent conduct”.

The custodial sentences range from what is termed lower culpability with between one and four years to very high culpability with 1018 years’ custody.

The guidelines state that a factor indicating high culpability is “where the offender was in a leading role if acting with others in the offending”. This may indicate that directors of companies with larger responsibilities will be subject to higher levels of sentencing if convicted.

The Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety: Final Report was published on 17 May 2018 in response to the Grenfell Tower fire. Details of the report and its recommendations can be found in the Construction section of this review.

The International Organisation for Standards published a new standard for occupational health and safety. It aims to reduce the number of workplace injuries and illnesses around the world by providing governmental agencies with effective and usable guidance.

The first ever code of practice to help consumer product safety recalls has been released. The code outlines practical steps a business can take in the event of and/or in preparation for a recall, such as establishing mechanisms to monitor product safety, examine and respond to potential product safety issues and review corrective action procedures. The code is also directed at regulators and market surveillance authorities, and it explains their role in helping businesses fulfil their responsibilities.

What to look out for in 2019

With regards to Brexit, however this is effected, it is not anticipated that there will be any immediate change to health and safety regulations in the UK, which are generally regarded as fit for purpose. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is a UK statute and many of the EU health and safety-related directives have already been implemented into UK legislation.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) plans to publish new guidance for employers on work-related stress, with a focus on “assessment and management of work-related mental ill health, including links to new mental health care standards”. In addition, to help tackle the issue, the HSE will be working to “improve the evidence base for interventions … and catalyse improvements in health and safety care standards”. The guidance will create awareness for employers of the six core mental health standards recommended in the Thriving at Work review.

In a further initiative, the HSE also aims to “deliver a programme of targeted interventions concentrating on controlling high-consequence risks from legionella, fairgrounds and major construction projects”. The HSE will attempt approximately 20,000 inspections – businesses should be aware of this, proactively monitoring their systems and reviewing risk assessments.

The HSE is also targeting issues flowing from what is termed “blue tape”, where a burden arises when business-to-business health and safety requirements are unbalanced or result in ineffectual risk control and ownership, particularly in relation to small and medium-sized enterprises. Guidance is planned for publication to help with proportionate implementation.

Authored by Martin Hunter.

Download our full Annual Insurance Review 2019 for more insights.