A new 'Highway Code' for health and safety

A new 'Highway Code' for health and safety


Author: Ron Reid

'Managing for Health and Safety' is a new internet micro site published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) at the end of July.

It has been described by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) as a new 'highway code' for safety.

The site is a replacement for the guidance document, "Successful Health and Safety Management" (frequently referred to as HSG 65). This new guidance seeks to simplify key concepts that underpin the best practice. In particular, that good health and safety management is not something which should be seen as a separate activity but part of the general management, closely connected with the overall governance, of any commercial organisation.

We anticipate that, like its predecessor, this new guidance will be frequently referred to by the HSE when bringing prosecutions or taking other enforcement activity.

Whilst these changes have come about as a part of the review by Professor Lofstedt into health and safety regulation, which was intended by the government to reduce the perceived "burden" on small businesses, it would be foolish to assume that these changes reduce the need to be vigilant with regard to compliance in any way.

Indeed, it could be argued that simplification should result in higher standards as the requirements can be more easily understood and implemented.

It follows therefore that the revamping and changing and guidance to one of 'plan, do, act', while simplifying the essential concepts, should not encourage, in any way, the relaxation of standards of compliance. If anything, issues such as senior management leadership, occupational health and workforce involvement have been given a stronger focus by this guidance than its predecessor.

At present the guidance is entirely online being confined within a micro-site - www.hse.gov.uk/managing/core-elements A printed copy will publish later in the year.

The site is made up of four elements:
1. The core elements of managing for health and safety
2. Are you doing what you need to?
3. Delivering effective arrangements
4. Resources, (which includes useful external links)

It is the intention of the HSE that the first two parts are to be mainly used by business leaders, owners and line managers, whereas the third part is aimed at professional health and safety advisers who need to put in place organisational arrangements for health and safety. It is this third part which is arguably the newest and most significant change introducing the 'plan, do, act' framework.

Business leaders and owners would be well advised to familiarise themselves with the new guidance. An increasing trend in recent months towards the personal prosecution of senior management for health and safety breaches, when prosecutions do occur, either alongside or instead of the organisation that they manage means that it will be time well spent.