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homeTuesday 18th September 2018

HSE inspection stats ‘inaccurate’

Tom Wall11/09/2013 - 13:00

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Ministers wants councils to target high risk firms
Ministers wants councils to target high risk firms

Official statistics showing councils are proactively inspecting thousands of lower risk businesses may be skewed by miscoding and misreporting.

EHN reported last week that over half of councils are continuing to inspect lower risk ‘Category B2’ and ‘Category C’ businesses in defiance of government guidance issued in 2011. But some of the councils listed in the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) annual survey of local enforcement say the figures are inaccurate.

Reading Borough Council, which is supposed to have inspected 172 lower risk businesses between 2012 and 2013, told EHN it had made mistakes when responding to the survey.

It said it had miscoded reactive inspections as proactive inspections and misreported joint food safety and health safety inspections as proactive because of ‘unclear guidance’.

The council added that in the future its officers will be using revised codes to address the ‘previous miscoding issues’ and stressed it would be cutting the level of interventions is carries out by a third in line with the government guidance.

‘The council takes its responsibilities in these matters seriously,’ said a spokesperson.

Sunderland Council, which inspected 404 lower risk businesses, told EHN that the HSE’s figures are inaccurate.

James Blackburn, Sunderland’s cabinet member for city services, said: ‘The figures reported in the local authority visit and inspection data for 2012 - 2013 do not accurately reflect the situation in Sunderland.’

Mr Blackburn added officers gave additional information to the HSE at the time of submission.

Sunderland recorded 'non-inspection interventions' such as leafleting and questionnaires left during visits to food premises, as a 'programmed intervention’ on its database.

Mr Blackburn said lower risk businesses would not be proactively visited this year.

‘In line with HSE guidance no programmed interventions of low risk premises are due to take place in the current year,’ he said.

Northumberland County Council, which inspected 245 lower risk businesses, said the firms had been inspected as part of a targeted intervention. .

‘The low risk premises listed within our LAE 1 return were rated low risk following an inspection undertaken where the premises type had been identified as high risk or for a targeted intervention within the ‘LAC 67-2 rev3 – Supplementary Material 3 – Summary of national planning priorities 2012-13’. Following inspection, the premises were then rated and as such listed in our return,’ it said.

The HSE told EHN it would not be withdrawing the figures or adding an advisory note.

A HSE spokesman said the local authority liaison committee HELA acknowledged there had been ‘inappropriate targeting of lower risk premises’ and ‘incorrect recording’ by a small number of local authorities.

‘We publish the data we are given by the local authorities, in line with a commitment in the local authorities national code to do so, to ensure transparency and accountability. Where the data prompts questions HSE will work with the local authorities but it is for local authorities to explain why they are not properly recording their visit data,’ said the spokesperson.

The 2011 guidance was put on a statutory footing this year. In May the HSE issued a new National Enforcement Code for local authorities, which lists sectors and activities suitable for proactive inspection.

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