The United Kingdom
The aim of this report is to appreciate the diverse issues associating the link between Health and Safety, and organisations that manage this, in essence, effectively controlling risks and harm that could occur to individuals within the work place. The report will also consider competency, within the Health and Safety arena, and examine factors that may influence its efficacy.
The concept of competence is inferred throughout current health and safety legislation; however, this is of a non-specific comportment, furthermore, the term ‘incompetent’ is more widely recognised, however when researching the definition of competent or competency the precincts are less easily defined. Every person who works needs some level of competence, conversely, as to how much is required, is dependant on their role and responsibility within an organisation.
However, there are limits to the performance that an organisation can achieve, without addressing the contributions that human factors have to play in eliminating occupational accidents and ill health. The history of health and safety Historically, health and safety laws in the United Kingdom (UK), for example, The Factories Act 1961, and The Offices, Shops and Railways Premises Act 1963, were applied to specific operations, and were designed prescriptively to correct acknowledged wrongs.
(Ridley and Channing, 2008: 42) Health and safety legislation traditionally developed a section at a time, and each section covered an exacting class of person and was not of a consistent manner. (Ridley and Channing, 2008: 42) Legislation only applied to those workers who were on site, thus if the job required working away from their designated area, as a contractor, there was no legislation in place to cover these employees. Separate legislation with variations and methods of enforcement would apply to a factory, an office, a mine, or a quarry.
There was indubitably a need for change within the legislation in order to offer protection to employees. In May 1970, Labour Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity, Barbara Castle, appointed a Committee of Inquiry to undertake a wide-ranging review of health and safety within the UK. Lord Robens chaired the committee and its remit was to examine critically ‘the provision made for the health and safety of persons in the course of their employment,’ furthermore to consider whether changes were needed and, if so, of what type.
Three main factors prompted this enquiry: 1. There had not been a comprehensive review of health and safety as a whole. (Hutter, 2004: 21) 2. There were disturbing levels of accident and disease at work, which were felt to be in need of scrutiny. (Hutter, 2004: 21) 3. The ‘traditional regulatory approach’ that is, an approach based on an extensive system of detailed statutory provisions administered and enforced by government departments and local authorities, was considered to be in need of examination. (Hutter, 2004: 22)
The main criticism levelled by the committee was that administrative jurisdictions were fragmented; there were too many incongruent agencies responsible to government departments, enforcing excessive legislation. It was proposed that a more integrated system needed to be created ‘to increase the effectiveness of the state’s contribution to safety and health at work’. Moreover, it was argued that ‘[r]eform should be aimed at creating the conditions for more effective self regulation by employers and employees jointly’ (Hutter, 2004: 22).
The intentions being to make those involved understand that health and safety matters are their own concerns and not just the remit of external agencies. In essence, Health and Safety was moving forward from a regulatory process to a self-regulating process. The recommendations of the Robens Committee subsequently led to the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Act (HASWA) 1974, which is the principal enabling legislation for the UK; it imposes duties on employers, employees, and manufactures. Training is specifically mentioned within section 2 (2) HASWA 1974 and states that
‘ In addition to other requirements it is the employers duty to ensure the provision of such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of his employees. ‘ (Tolley’s, 2009: 1467) This does not place a duty on an employer to provide training, however, it recognises that having carried out generic and specific risk assessments of the working area; an employer may well believe that training would be an effective measure of control of skills, knowledge, and competency.
Competence is not specifically identified within HASWA 1974 with exception to an allusion in section 19 (1) which refers to the appointment of inspectors of health and safety. This relates to ‘such person having suitable qualifications as it thinks necessary for carrying into effect the relevant statutory provisions within its field of responsibility’ (Tolley’s, 2009: 1466). The Role of the European Union Since 1988, the approach adopted to regulate health and safety at work has been via the ratification of the framework directive (89/391/EEC), which introduced measures to improve the safety and health of workers.
Under this framework directive, several daughter directives have been adopted. The daughter directives are of fundamental significance within the UK as they have led to the development of a multiplicity of regulations referred to as the ‘six pack’, or the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR) 1992 these being: 1. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992 2. The Work Place (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 3. The Provision and use of Work Equipment Regulations 1992 4. Manual Handling Operation Regulations 1992 5. The Health and Safety (Display screen equipment) 1992
6. The use of Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 1992 The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR) 1992 The underlying principle behind the MHSWR is the need to carry out risk assessments. The requirements for training are given in Regulation 11 and are based around situations where new or increased risks are likely to occur. These can include: 1. Recruitment 2. Transfer or on taking up new responsibilities 3. The introduction of new technology 4. The introduction of new or changed systems of work The need for programmes of training and development go beyond induction training.
Regulation 11 (3) (c) specifies that training must be: 1. Repeated periodically. 2. Adapted to take account of any new or changed risks. 3. Take place during working hours. The author would suggest that there are many instances where individuals receive comprehensive training at the induction stage however, it can be argued that there is limited, or no provision for updating training, this regulation addresses this issue. A safe system of work (SSW) is paramount for the prevention of ill health and accidents within the work place. The implementations of safe systems at work are often the outcome of risk assessments.
(Stranks, 2005: 46). Essentially a SSW is written down, and chronologically lists the methods of performing a particular job, in such a way to avoid or minimise risk within the work place. A SSW is shown in Figure 1. The key elements of a safe system of work are: 1. Adequate plant and equipment are available, the right tools for the job, and that the plant is designed for safe access and isolation. 2. Competent staff who are appropriately trained and experienced in the work that they do, instructed clearly in the work to be done, and provided with the necessary information on substances and the safe use of equipment.
3. There is appropriate supervision, that the work is monitored, audited, and that the safe system of work is adhered to. Case Law and competency The components of a safe system of work comprise of case law and statute law, the need for a safe system of work can be traced back to 1905 when Lord McLaren in: Bett v Dalmey Oil Company (1905) 7F (Ct of Sess) 787 judged that: the obligation is threefold: the provision of a competent staff of men, adequate material, and a proper system and effective supervision.
In 1938 the common law duty of care was highlighted in the case of Wilsons and Clyde Coal Company Limited v English (1938 AC 57) where Lord Wright said that: the whole course of authority consistently recognises a duty which rests on the employer, and which is personal to the employer, to take reasonable care for the safety of his workmen, whether the employer be an individual, a firm or a company, and whether or not the employer takes any share in the conduct of the operations.
This duty of care implies the need for a SSW and that the delegation does not remove the employer’s duty to provide a SSW. External accreditation It could be questioned as to whether competence schemes should be externally accredited, giving the scheme a recognised mark of approval with the implied confidence that this gives to the public, customers and regulators. However, the risk is that the accreditation authority may well concentrate more on the administrative procedures rather than achieving effective competence and that the responsibility for ensuring competence may become distorted.