See below for the main legislation changes in H&S, environment, food safety and property. Topics covered:
- Proposed changes to food registration
- Housing health and safety rating system
- Manslaughter update
- Local authorities to charge for HSW advice
Proposed Changes to Food Registration
The Food Standards Agency are currently consulting on proposals to require new (or changed) food businesses to register directly with them online; they will be requiring more information than is presently required to register with a local authority. Local authorities will still be required to keep their own databases of food operations but it must be in a format that allows transfer of information to the FSA.
A ‘permit to trade’ and fixed penalty notices for operations failing to register are under consideration. Although it is currently a requirement to give 28 days notice before starting a food business (or transferring ownership of an existing business) local authorities have not insisted upon 28 days notice; which is sensible as changes often occur with only a few days notice. However, the proposal is that failure to give 28 days will attract a fixed penalty and will also reduce the confidence in management element of the Food Hygiene rating score!
Housing Health & Safety Rating System
In 2006 the Government instituted a completely new system of evaluating the condition of living accommodation ; based upon safety requirements it is more factually based upon evidence than the old fitness standards. In general, it has been found to work as intended although some areas require updating and there is certainly room for updated guidance and better working examples. This was the opinion of a recent select committee report but, rather than take the committee recommendations on board, the official government line is that, “we will carefully consider whether it needs to be updated.” Which rather sounds like it is going to sit in a file somewhere for the next few years!
New guidelines coming into force on 1st November will recommend longer prison sentences for individuals convicted of gross negligence manslaughter. The guidance follows a similar pattern to that set for HSW and Corporate Manslaughter guidelines. Failure in their duty of care which results in a death mean managers in the workplace are particularly likely to be prosecuted.
An unfortunate lapse by a manager who is normally safety conscious has a starting point of 2 years within the range of 1 to 4 years. A general disregard for safety has a starting point of 8 years with the range 5 – 12 years whereas a blatant disregard for safety has a starting point of 12 years with the option of upto 18 years. Having found someone guilty and decided the culpability, the courts may adjust the starting down for mitigating factors such as a genuine ignorance of the risk or up for aggravating factors such as previous convictions or warnings.
It is, of course, much easier to ascertain individual blame in smaller organisations; which is why the offence of corporate manslaughter was instituted in 2006. And meanwhile, HSE are in the process of prosecuting an oil refinery where an explosion killed 4 workers and seriously injured a fifth. Presumable the company is too large for CPS to consider Corporate Manslaughter?
Local Authorities to Charge for HSW “Advice”?
At present the Health & Safety Executive can charge (at a rate of £129 per hour) for the advice given during an inspection that finds breaches of HSW legislation. The parliamentary all-party group that advises on HSW issues have reported that this is an effective way of encouraging improvements and raising funds for the enforcement body (as well as reducing court time for more minor offences).
Local authorities are carrying out far fewer safety inspections due to cuts in resources and an HSE code which limits routine inspections. The group have now recommended that the power to issue Fees for Intervention (FFI) be given to local authorities and the code be changed to encourage more inspections.
About the Author
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