In this roundup, we consider recent developments in the Crime and Regulatory sphere, including, amongst other topics, the cost of living crisis and the responsibilities of employers in relation to stress at work, the publication of the recent Health and Safety report by the ORR, potential new sentencing guidelines for those convicted of selling knives to children, and the protection of children by the Online Safety Bill.
Mental health at work
On 28 September 2022, the World Health Organisation published a report on “Guidelines on mental health at work”. The overview states “an estimated 15% of working-age adults have a mental disorder at any point in time. Depression and anxiety are estimated to cost the global economy US$1 trillion each year driven predominantly by lost productivity. People living with severe mental health conditions are largely excluded from work despite participation in economic activities being important for recovery”.
These timely findings tie in with our recent article on the cost of living crisis and the responsibilities of employers to manage stress at work. With the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) increasingly focussing its role on the prevention of ill health, including work related stress, it has never been more important for employers to fully appreciate their legal duties and coordinate measures to protect employees whilst at work.
The Office for Road and Rail continue to work to deliver health and safety improvements
The Office for Road and Rail (ORR) has recently published its annual health and safety report covering the period April 2021 to March 2022.
One of the main takeaways from the report is that the ORR’s focus remains on level crossing safety as this continues to be a major source of risk on the railway, with a total of seven level crossing deaths over the year. Launched in June 2021, the ORR’s Principles for Managing Level Crossing Safety is featured in the report which is intended to gauge a better understanding of level crossing users and drive better industry collaboration.
The ORR’s overarching key message is that the industry must remain focused on health and safety management. Perhaps as a warning to others in the industry, it cites that enforcement and prosecution continue to be a tool in driving improvement, referencing its prosecution of WH Malcolm Limited in July 2021, sentenced to a £6.5 million fine upheld by the Court of Appeal, in one of the largest fines levied in a health and safety prosecution.
Retailers to face significant fines if caught selling knives to children
Retailers look set to be hit with bigger fines for selling knives to children in England and Wales under a new draft of sentencing guidelines recently published for consultation. Although we now await a definitive guideline for this offence, it is clear the guideline will seek to make it harder for underage persons to buy knives as part of ongoing efforts to reduce knife crime. Trading Standards “strongly support this move by the Sentencing Council to achieve this important outcome”.
UK Government under increasing pressure to protect children from harmful content found online
The UK Online Safety Bill was introduced into UK parliament earlier this year. It is wide-ranging and would, if given effect in its current form, impose extensive obligations on in-scope online services providers to address illegal and harmful content that appears on their platforms.
Specifically in relation to children, in-scope platforms will need to protect from harmful or inappropriate content, such as bullying, pornography and the promotion of self-harm. This is in addition to legal but harmful content, such as self-harm and eating disorder content.
The recent inquest into the death of Molly Russell, a 14-year-old who took her own life in 2017 after viewing harmful content online, and the media interest into the case has no doubt put pressure on the government to deliver on its commitment to protect children online.
In other news…
- On 23 November the HSE released its annual work-related ill-health and injury statistics for 2021/22 which show that around half or all recorded work-related illnesses fall under the category of stress, depression or anxiety.
- On 14 November the HSE published new guidance which aims to help employers support disabled people, and those with long term health conditions thrive at work. The UK has record rates of employment, but disabled people are less likely to be employed than non-disabled people and are twice as likely to fall out of work. The new guidance stresses the importance of making sure workplaces are accessible, that staff communication is clear and inclusive, and appropriate occupational health support is available. The guidance can be viewed here.
- A private members bill has been introduced in the House of Commons which requires the Secretary of State to publish a strategy for promoting a circular economy in respect of plastics.
- Restrictions on the placement of High in Fat, Salt and Sugar (HFSS) food in prominent locations (in store and online) are now in force with restrictions on volume price promotions delayed until October 2023.
- The HSE has launched a campaign to combat serious aches, pains and strains in construction. HSE inspectors will be carrying out 1,000 inspections in October and November 2022 checking how workers are moving heavy or bulky materials.