The Health & Safety Executive’s latest business plan, published in April, has low-frequency, high-impact catastrophic incidents as one of its particular areas of focus. The other main priority areas include leading and engaging with others to improve workplace, providing an effective regulatory framework and securing effective management and control of risk.
The HSE says Great Britain is one of the safest countries in the world to work in, but there is still room for improvement. “We want to continue to lead the way and establish a 21st-century, world-class occupational health and safety system. That is why we have talked to stakeholders across the system to develop real ownership of the ‘Helping Great Britain work well’ strategy, so everyone involved can play their part.”
The 2016/17 plan says Great Britain has many highly specialised industries which could potentially cause great harm to their workers, the environment and the public if not properly managed. A single incident could have catastrophic consequences and has the potential to undermine whole sectors by eroding the public’s trust and acceptance of complex, high hazard activities being undertaken, especially those near to communities.
Changes within these sectors continue and HSE as a regulator must respond effectively to ensure the potential for harm is minimised. In particular:
* More than half of UKCS offshore installations are now operating beyond their original design life. Investment in, for example, new fields and deeper waters will present challenges to the existing infrastructure and requirement for new technologies;
* The UK coal industry continues to decline, with the last large working coal mine recently ceasing production. Other extraction is growing, with oil and shale gas in particular having the potential for rapid expansion;
* The chemicals sector continues to change as some businesses move away from manufacturing high-volume/low-margin products to higher value-added specialised manufacturing and import models;
* The explosives sector is a relatively small but diverse sector. UK manufacture of explosive substances has largely been replaced by storage, assembly and processing of bought-in explosives, but there is increasing demand for bespoke products and high-value munitions; and
* The bio-economy is expected to grow, exemplified by the agenda to accelerate development not only in synthetic biology but also agri-science and regenerative medicine. We need to meet the challenge of keeping pace with such changes while applying a proportionate regulatory approach which allows growth and development and retains public reassurance.
Priorities in this sector for 2016/17 will include:
* Focus on leadership, worker involvement, competence and asset integrity – key elements across all major hazard sectors
* Embed the new Offshore Directive regime, SEVESO III Directive and COMAH 2015 Regulations through the respective joint Competent Authorities, and complete the reassessment of safety cases and safety reports
* Proactively engage with industry bodies and other regulators across all of the major hazards sectors to ensure ongoing focus on safe production and improved major-hazard management, while keeping abreast of industry changes and responding accordingly
To see the full business plan, go to: