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Councils defy ban on proactive inspections

Tom Wall04/09/2013 - 13:00

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HSE says do not to check lower risk firms
HSE says do not to check lower risk firms

More than half of local authorities appear to be ignoring government guidance banning proactive inspections of lower risk businesses.

The most recent data released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) shows that 53 per cent of the authorities continue to proactively inspect ‘some or many’ lower risk ‘Category B2’ and ‘Category C’ businesses.

This contravenes guidance issued by the HSE in 2011 following government pressure to better target inspections and reduce ‘regulatory burdens’ on businesses. The guidance states ‘Category B’ firms are ‘not suitable for proactive inspections’ and ‘Category C’ firms should only be visited after incidents.

The data shows that 94 authorities inspected more than 15 lower risk businesses and 94 inspected fewer than 15 lower risk businesses between April 2012 to April 2013.

Council inspectors proactively inspected 2,515 ‘Category B1’ firms and proactively inspected 7,370 ‘Category B2/C’ firms.

A HSE briefing paper on the figures for the local authority liaison committee HELA says councils might be visiting lower risk premises as part of joint agency inspections, undertaking inspection visits to new premises for rating purposes or recording matters of concern uncovered during visits for other regulatory purposes.

But the paper stresses that councils have met government demands for one-third reduction in proactive inspection activity.

Proactive inspections have fallen by 88 per cent since 2009/10. There has also been a significant shift in proactive inspection activity from 60 per cent of all visits in 2009/10 to 14 per cent in 2012/13.

Steve Miller, chair of London environmental health managers and a HELA committee member, told EHN councils were visiting businesses that have been de-prioritised by the HSE.

‘We are doing about a tenth of the health and safety work that we used to do. This is the trend of the government is looking for. But they are worried that councils in certain parts of the country are going in and bothering small and medium-sized businesses when they have got better things to do,’ he said.

He added that some councils maybe misreporting visits as preventive inspections and others maybe choosing to ignore the guidance.

‘Some councils haven’t bothered or they are rebelling,’ he said. ‘But ministers might loose patience with councils.’

David Gibson, chartered EHP, said warned that people would suffer as a consequence of cuts to health and safety work.

‘There is a huge reduction in the amount of health and safety work being done,’ he said. ‘Sadly there will be people who are injured and killed as a result.’

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