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#1 Posted : 01 February 2001 13:53:00(UTC)
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Posted By Laurie
Earlier today I was told that a safety measure I wish to introduce is unnecessary according to the enforcing authority (LA), the third or fourth time this has happened in the last six months. On this occasion it was simply an additional fire sign I wanted to display (it is possible to stand in a corridor with 12 doors, without a fire exit sign being visible, a situation I do not like).

While I fully expect enforcing authorities to tell me I am not doing enough, I do find it infuriating when those for whom I am responsible tell me I am doing too much, and quote an inspector as their authority. Needless to say, I was not even aware the person concerned had been on my premises!

In much the same vein as a recent thread referring to outside consultants, can I appeal to all inspecting/enforcement agencies that if someone tells you that their H&S Officer has asked for a certain measure please do us the courtesy of finding out why, before telling the person concerned that we are talking rubbish. I hasten to add that I am employed, and not selling anything!

Laurie





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#2 Posted : 01 February 2001 16:54:00(UTC)
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Posted By Nigel
With respect to the fire signage issue, have you undertaken a Fire Risk Assessment ? If you have this should indicate whether you have sufficient signage or not. This assessment should overrule the opinion of the enforcer, it is your building and your risks which "you" need to manage. I hope this answers part of your question.
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#3 Posted : 02 February 2001 15:18:00(UTC)
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Posted By Laurie
Nigel

Yes I have done a risk assessment - that is why I decided further signage is necessary. Unfortunately it's the old story - regardless of my opinion, my employer will not spend £7.50 on a fire sign when the fire prevention officer tells him it is unnecessary. Similarly, I cannot insist on a handrail at a disabled access ramp since the building inspector says it is not necessary - I really do find it very frustrating!

Laurie
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#4 Posted : 02 February 2001 17:21:00(UTC)
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Posted By Paul Craythorne
Laurie,

Maybe your bosses are interpreting the Enforcing Officers comment to suit themselves or maybe the Enforcing Officer is not suitably qualified to give comment. Please bear in mind that they are only generalists like many of ourselves and they also have to rely on specialists in certain fields.

Tell your employer that the legislative requirements are only minimum standards and that you are trying to elevate your company's H&S standards to a best practice level.

Regards,

Paul
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#5 Posted : 02 February 2001 18:08:00(UTC)
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Posted By Martin
I agree with both Nigel and Paul, at the end of the day if an incident were to occur, would this Inspector rush to your defence and admit that he felt that an extra sign was not required. If damage was to follow as a result I know who would bear the blame, and where liability would lay for lack of signage.


As first stated by Nigel, it is your Fire Risk Assessment, you record your findings, and if that means going over and beyond minimum legal requirements, so be it, you are employed to advise, not the LA.

Maybe someone should point out to this Inspector, that if all organisations only complied to minimum legal requirements, then Safety Practitioners WOULD BE SIGNING ON THE DOLE QUEUE AT AN ALARMING RATE!


For the sake of £7-50, balanced against confusion and loss or damage, I know what I would do.

By the way, if this Inspector requires a good grounding in the terms reasonably practicable etc, the NTU Dip SHEM, maybe a good starting point, for refresher training and education.

PS, I bet he did not give his advice on this matter in writing!


Regards

Martin Knox





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#6 Posted : 02 February 2001 18:27:00(UTC)
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Posted By shaun mckeever
The enforcing officer should not offer advice without backing it up in writing. I would go back to the enforcing officer and ask for him/her to confirm their comments in writing with their reasons behind their decision. My feeling is that once the enforcing officer becomes accountable they will think twice before giving advice and will make sure of their facts.
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#7 Posted : 03 February 2001 10:56:00(UTC)
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Posted By Andy Lucas
Laurie,

Thank you for your message.

As a Local Authority Enforcement Officer it concerns me to read your message and the tone of some of the replies.

Firstly you don't seem to have actually spoken to the Officer. I would suggest that would be an obvious starting point. In my experience, management are quite happy to interpret information to suit their own aims and therefore you may find that the officers comments have been taken out of context.

Part of our remit in enforcement is to clearly explain to businesses what they need to do to comply with the raft of h&s legislation. Of equal importance is to also explain what is not necessary by law. If, having completed your assessments you decide something is necessary, then there is nothing to stop you from implementing additional safeguards beyond what is required by legislation. I am sure business would be concerned if officers were asking for things that are not a legal requirement.

In any case, the interpretation of fire safety risk assessments is down to the fire authority. Any issues concerning fire safety should be directed towards your Fire Safety Officer.

To conclude I can only reiterate my concerns that your one instance has brought about such a response. Colleagues that I work with are highly qualified specialists in h&s. We are not perfect, but there again who is?

Hope this balances some of the comments and is helpful.

Regards
Andy
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#8 Posted : 03 February 2001 22:08:00(UTC)
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Posted By Ken Taylor
Having worked in a Health & Safety unit of an Environmental Health Department, I have some sympathy with Andy's response. However, I must also say that, over the years, I have, on quite a few occasions, felt rather frustrated and annoyed by 'generous' enforcing officers and the like (EHOs, Fire Officers, Building Control Officers, Planners - and even Health & Safety Advisers!) telling employers that there is no need to implement certain measures. This 'advice' is, almost invariably, not in writing. My response in recent years, based upon experience, has been to always put my advice in writing to the employer and, where possible, write to the 'generous adviser' to confirm the advice that they have given. The response can be quite interesting and even welcome!
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#9 Posted : 08 February 2001 11:24:00(UTC)
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Posted By Laurie
Thanks for the responses - to reply to the points raised:

Paul - I agree that my employers are interpreting results to suit themselves - this is what bosses do! In theses particular circumstances, and there are several others, I would expect a Fire Service Fire Prevention Officer and an LA Building inspector to be fully qualified.

Martin - Yes I agree - my risk assessment stands and is there with my "Actions Required" for all to see.

Shaun - once again I agree - first rule of management - that which is not in writing has not been said!

Andy - I take your point. Two reasons why I cannot speak to the guys concerned - they normally do not even do me the courtesy of telling me they've been so I do not know who they are, and two (and this will appal many of you) my employers do not permit me to contact advisory/ enforcing authorities without permission. Such permission is rarely given! Obviously, you will now also realise that there is something to stop me implementing additional safeguards - the management! Saving your presence, Andy, I must say that by and large, while I have found nationally based organisations such as HSE and EPA will bend over backwards to help, most locally based enforcement officers, whether they be EHOs, fire, building etc. are nit picking petty little tyrants, and I speak as someone who gets on well with traffic wardens!

Once again, thanks everybody

Laurie
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#10 Posted : 11 February 2001 09:48:00(UTC)
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Posted By Andy Lucas
Laurie,

It seems to me that your primary issue is that you are not receiving the support from your own management. This really must be addressed if you are to have any impact on safety management.

With regard to your comments concerning local enforcement agencies I would like to raise the following.

Enforcement officers are accountable and so if you are unhappy with the service you have received you will find that as local authority officers, we are probably more accountable than the HSE and you can raise your concerns with the authority directly.

Yes there are bad apples, but from both sides of the enforcement fence and unfortunately you have to expect that.

To say that 'most locally based enforcement officers, whether they be EHOs, fire, building etc. are nit picking petty little tyrants' is rather unfair. This forum is for all professionals involved in health and safety and I do not think that the quality of this forum is maintained by making such sweeping comments.

Surely it is preferable to keep things in perspective and maintain a degree of professionalism from which ever side of the fence you are on.

Andy
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#11 Posted : 12 February 2001 14:27:00(UTC)
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Posted By Laurie
Andy

My apologies, I did not mean to give individual offence. I did say "by and large" and "I have found". While that was obviously a generalisation, it was a generalisation based upon experience, and in no way was meant to refer to the tens of thousands of LA enforcement officers I have not met

Laurie
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#12 Posted : 12 February 2001 19:02:00(UTC)
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Posted By Ralph
I read with interest Andy Lucas' concern and defensive response about Laurie's posting. The problem is real enough. Unfortunately it is easier to critisise the messenger rather than face up to the problem. The simple fact is that there is widespread ignorance of the role of the employed health and safety officer. I am referring here to people employed in accordance with regulation 7 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. It is bad enough that this ignorance exists amongst managers. It is, however, particularly galling that some health and safety professionals, both consultants and those in enforcement, also show a lamentable lack of understanding of the role of the health and safety officer or adviser.

I have never had anything other than support from HSE inspectors but I have found my position undermined by consultants including from a well known national body prominent in the field of health and safety. I do also know just what Laurie means about problems experienced in dealing with local enforcers, fire officers, building inspectors and the like.

The answer isn't to express concern that someone has drawn attention to the problem but rather to make an effort to do something about it. Reg. 7 of MHSWR applies to all employers (subject to paras 6 and 7 of reg 7). I would hope that consultants and enforcers alike would think next time they visit an employer's premises and consider if they should be asking to speak with the employed H&S competent person. That alone will help to make managers think. After all why should managers have any regard for the employed H&S officer if their fellow H&S professionals, consultants or enforcers, do not.

Andy, you may well work with a team of highly competent H&S professionals - lucky you - many employed H&S officers work without the support of like minded colleagues and in difficult circumstances. I can certainly sympathise with Laurie's position having worked as an H&S officer in the education sector. I know just what a difficult job it can be.

Best of luck Laurie,
Ralph
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#13 Posted : 13 February 2001 09:35:00(UTC)
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Posted By Diane Warne
Laurie,
On your point that your employers will not allow you to contact enforcing authorities without your permission: to quote HSE's "Revitalising" strategy statement - "all workers have the right...... to contact their health & safety enforcing authority. Workers can make their views known in confidence, if they wish, and the enforcing authorities will do everything possible to protect their anonymity. Workers' right to contact enforcing authorities is publicised in the new Health & Safety Law poster and leaflet, and on the HSE's website."
This is a right of any worker, let alone a H&S professional! Your employers can't stop you. Anyway, what are they afraid of?!

Diane
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