HSE roundup – hot topics for 2018

As all safety professionals will no doubt be aware, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have certain ‘hot topic areas’ or particular industries which they will focus on at any one time in terms of inspection regimes, safety checks and enforcement action.

Here is a short summary of HSE focus areas for 2018:

A New Year warning for the food manufacturing sector

The New Year brought with it a clear safety warning from the HSE to those in the food manufacturing sector. On 2 January 2018 the HSE issued a press release, warning companies and individuals in the food manufacturing trade that they “must pay closer attention to how they manage workplace health risks or face serious penalties”.

HSE inspectors will this year be embarking upon a programme of proactive and unannounced inspections which will review health and safety standards in food manufacturing. The HSE announced that the focus of the inspections will be on:

  • Management and control of occupational asthma from exposure to flour dust in bakeries, cake and biscuit manufacturers and grain mills.
  • Injuries potentially caused by manual handling activities and repetitive tasks across the industry.

Companies in the industry may wish to revisit their safety arrangements and risk assessments in respect of these areas so that they are as prepared as possible when the inspector calls.

Attention farmers!

On 17 January 2018 the HSE launched an initiative which focusses on the risks of maintenance for farm buildings. The HSE will embark on enhanced inspections and visits to farmers and will be inspecting their building maintenance works with a particular focus on:

  • How the risk of falling from height is being controlled during building maintenance
  • How exposure to asbestos is being prevented.

Farm owners and managers who are undertaking building maintenance work (and also those who are not!) should expect an increase in unannounced visits by the HSE to look at the management of this area.

No relaxing of the rules when it comes to asbestos

The HSE took the unusual step last year of suggesting in a consultation paper that safety rules be relaxed. The suggestion related to the frequency of asbestos medical checks and the proposal was that the current requirement for health checks every two years be changed to every three on the basis that the current regulatory system is protecting workers’ health, so less frequent checks would not result in more cases of asbestosis developing.

The HSE received strong push back from industry stakeholders over concerns that workers’ health could be put at risk if health checks are made less frequent. As a consequence, the HSE has recently scrapped the plan. Therefore, at least for the foreseeable future, medical checks will continue to be required every two years.

Read other items in the Health, Safety and Environment Brief - April 2018