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#1 Posted : 22 January 2001 13:22:00(UTC)
Rank: Guest

Posted By Ian Waldram
We all know the theoretical difference between published HSE Guidance and an ACoP, and I note that some participants in this Forum believe that an ACoP is really very much more powerful than HSE Guidance (see the discussion here re Directors’ responsibilities). Are we sure that is actually the case?

Many organisations, especially smaller ones without in-house professional OSH advisors, are willing to comply with basic, well-proven OSH requirements – their usual problem is not reluctance to comply, but finding out authoritatively ‘what they have to do’. That is one reason for demands for clear, prescriptive legislation. Of course, actually writing clear, prescriptive standards which apply universally is often a tricky, if not impossible, task – but that is a different issue!

In my experience, when Regulations and accompanying ACoP and Guidance are published as a single document, most duty holders don’t bother much about which is which – they just take it all as authoritative. Similarly, where HSE publishes technical guidance, it is usually followed with little questioning, i.e. it is treated very much as if it was an ACoP.

Therefore it strikes me that the difference between HSE publishing an ACoP and Guidance is perhaps of less relevance than many practitioners believe – as professionals, we love to explain and debate the differences, but do most employers actually care? Does anyone have examples where an ‘average’ duty holder was willing to comply with Regs or an ACoP, but deliberately ignored HSE Guidance, with less-than-adequate workplace standards as a result? Do any front-line Inspectors find there are real differences when they advise people to obtain and follow the different types of document? Are there examples where they would love to serve an Improvement Notice or prosecute, but don’t do so because the relevant standards are in Guidance rather than an ACoP?

If the answers to any of the above are “Yes”, if would be interesting to have details, or at least an indication of the size of employer, the type of workplace and whether or not the OSH advice was in-house, a consultant, or from an enforcement agency?
#2 Posted : 22 January 2001 14:51:00(UTC)
Rank: Guest

Posted By Frank Neville Johnson

As a local authority fire safety inspector, I am aware my understanding may not reflect the safety scene generally.

It used to be the case that ACOP's i.e. those which are referred to as approved by legislation, were used almost exclusively by the inspecting officer as a reference for enforcing standards. That was in the days of prescriptive legislation. Now where it can be shown by applying almost any standard, European, American etc. that the chosen solution is reasonable in the circumstances of the case, then the enforcement officer must take that into consideration particularly now that 'engineered solutions' are common place. This, quite rightly, has placed a pressure on inspectors to improve their expertise in order to be able to keep up with new technology and make the necessary balanced decisions.

Sorry Ian, prescriptive legislation is fast disappearing. There are now a hundred and one ways of 'skinning a cat' if you'll excuse my political incorrectness there, its more a case of whichever cap fits, providing of course it can be justified and that’s the difficult bit. It’s a bit like television, life was much simpler when there was just BBC.

Regards Frank
#3 Posted : 22 January 2001 21:46:00(UTC)
Rank: Guest

Posted By Ken Taylor
I think you have raised a fair and interesting point here, Ian. I often fail to remember whether something is in the ACOP or the Guidance and I suspect it's more to do with how we consider them as an entity rather than failing memory. As an in-house health and safety practitioner, I try to overcome something of the need for distinction by the employer by stating a need for adherence to specific HSE guidance within policies and generic risk assessments and argue that, as enforcement will be by the HSE, the best intention (and defence) is to follow their published guidance.
#4 Posted : 25 January 2001 15:22:00(UTC)
Rank: Guest

Posted By peter gotch
Ian, I agree with your key point that managers can't easily access authoratative guidance.

My own view is if we want to Revitalise H&S increasing the free availability of key information should be a priority.

This indicates that HSE should publish all ACOPs on their website.

The HSA site is a shining example of open government in comparison with HSE's.

Regards, Peter.
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