Louise Hosking addresses the H&S challenges and changes for 2019
2018 was another busy year in health & safety with new legislation and the publication of ISO45001:2018, providing a model for occupational safety and health (OSH) standards which will align with other quality standards and associated guidance.
Alongside new requirements for personal protection equipment, changes to gas regulations and worker compensation law – campaigns for improving mental health and wellbeing in the workplace have stepped up from national bodies such as IOSH, ROSPA and from the HSE.
Here, Louise Hosking, chartered health and safety practitioner and director of Hosking Associates, addresses some of the challenges and changes for 2019 and beyond.
Consequences for gross negligence
At the end of 2018, the sentencing guidelines for gross negligence manslaughter were published. In the event of death, the new guidelines mean it is now more likely decision makers will be handed prison sentences where it is shown their actions or inactions contributed to a fatality.
We are in an age where our decision-making leaves a trail of digital breadcrumbs. There really is nowhere to hide if you decide to compromise on compliance. If leaders make future decisions on the basis of “saving” money the consequences are going to be much more severe than they ever have been. My prediction is we will start seeing more directors, managers, and decision makers jailed.
Proper property management
In her 2018 report, Judith Hackitt outline concerns that the property management sector has grown too complicated with no-one taking overall responsibility. I have personally seen a growing reliance on a “checklist” approach to managing risk rather than proper risk assessment – with the thought this saves time and therefore money. In 2019 and beyond, property owners and managers will need to be increasing their budgets to manage safety so their stakeholders, contractors, tenants and building visitors are protected.
The same goes for design; I still see new buildings handed over with poor access for maintenance, water services organised without considering legionella risks or systems which rely on elaborate processes to clean them. Aesthetics cannot be given a higher priority than safety and there will be more checks going forward to ensure this is the case.
Brexit has taken time and resources in government and business away from other priorities, away from OSH. Where safety may have once been a business “top priority”, protecting supply chains means focus shifts to keep things moving. As we open up the opportunities to trade with nations outside the EU do we know the standards of the goods we will be importing? Could we be at potential risk of importing goods which have been manufactured with hazardous substances such as asbestos as a component?
Rise of flexible working
With the growth of the gig economy and a desire to achieve greater work-life balance the mental and physical health agenda has grown in focus. Finely tuned soft skills, increased emotional intelligence, and mentally agile management will be needed to navigate this changing world of work. New HSE guidance on stress will be published in March. More people will be working for themselves flexibly or part-time. However, it’s important that proper systems and structures are put in place to ensure clear communication and set boundaries, so the mental health of these people is protected.
OSH practitioners in the boardroom
2019 is looking to be a year with many challenges, but also a lot of positive changes. Businesses will be more focused than ever before on their reputation and moral standing in order to attract and retain the brightest talent. OSH will have a pivotal role to play to ensure the brightest and the best talent remain engaged and motivated.