Whilst we’ve been living through a pandemic for the most part of 2020, it’s natural that the government have taken a number of actions to ensure that the health & safety of the public is in everybody’s best interest. However, not all of these actions have been surrounding the coronavirus; there have also been a number of new bills and fines.
Here are some key actions the government has taken when it comes to workplace health & safety over the last year...
Fire Safety Bill
Back in March, the Home Office introduced a new bill in order to improve fire safety in buildings throughout England and Wales.
Forming part of the government’s response to the Grenfell Tower fire back in 2017, the Fire Safety Bill will amend the pre-existing Fire Safety Order 2005 to clarify that the responsible person or duty-holder for multi-occupied, residential buildings must manage and reduce the risk of fire for:
- The structure and external walls of the building, including cladding, balconies, and windows;
- Entrance doors to individual flats that open into common parts.
This clarification aims to empower fire and rescue services to take enforcement action and hold building owners to account if they are not compliant.
I am pleased to see the announcement of the new Fire Safety Bill. We have been calling for additional powers since 2017 and these changes should contribute to the public feeling safer in their homes.
Introduced to Parliament back on the 30th January 2020, the Environmental Bill sets out reforms aimed to protect the environment when the UK leaves the EU. Some of these reforms include:
- A requirement for a long-term environment plan.
- The setting of various environmental targets.
- Incorporation of environmental principles into UK law.
- A new Office for Environmental Protection.
- Extending producer responsibility schemes for waste beyond the current waste streams, introducing:
- A Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) to encourage consumers to return drinks containers for recycling;
- A new tax on plastic packaging which does not contain at least 30% recycled plastic content.
- Strengthening air quality legislation and increasing powers in relation to enforcement of standards.
The Bill was being considered by a Public Bill Committee but due to COVID-19, the sittings of the Committee have been suspended.
Health & Safety fines
There have been a number of Health & Safety fines handed out over the last year. Here are some of the biggest of 2020:
Ladder fall resulting in a £1.1 million fine
A company was fined £1.1 million as a result of an injury to a worker who fell from a ladder.
The HSE investigation found that reasonably practicable measures had not been taken to prevent the fall.
£2 million fine after a fatal incident at a manufacturing site
An employee at a manufacturing site was using high-pressure water jetting equipment to clean paint residue from pipes in the paint shop at a car manufacturing site.
During the process the worker was struck by the end of flexi-lance, causing a tragic fatal injury. The organisation was fined in excess of £2 million.
Oil refinery sentenced after workers suffer multiple burns
An oil refinery was sentenced for safety breaches after two workers suffered life-changing injuries from an uncontrolled release of high pressure/temperature steam.
The workers were re-assembling high-pressure steam pipework following maintenance of a steam turbine driven pump. Whilst doing this, they were exposed to an uncontrolled release of high pressure/temperature steam that was roughly 250 degrees Celsius.
An HSE investigation found a series of failures with the firms ‘safe system of work procedure’. A number of the personnel involved in the implementation of the company’s safe isolation procedure of the steam system had failed to complete all the required checks and verifications to reduce the associated risks.