Amendments to the Six Pack regulations
Changes to the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1992) were published back in December 1999. The main thrust of these is that employers should not rely on outside assistance but instead use employees from their own organization in order to conduct risk assessments at their premises.
The UK Government was forced to amend the regulations after the EC raised concerns over the UK's implementation of the original European health and safety Framework Directive. Apparently the original regulations did not explicitly outline the Directive's requirements for appointing competent persons and also making arrangements for contacting the Emergency Services.
The 1999 amendments clarify specific requirements and introduce some new legal duties on Employers. As a consequence a new Approved Code of Practice which has been completely revised was published at the end of March 2000. The new ACOP makes it clear that Employers should:
- Whenever possible, employ a competent person from their own workforce
- Use that person to carry out risk assessments required by the regulations
- Use external assistance only when there is no competent worker within the organisation
In some cases there will be a need to consult outside experts and this move is not precluded by the ACOP but Employers should make sure that anyone they appoint as a competent advisor is capable of applying the principles of risk assessment and prevention to the workplace. As an example, a doctor who is appointed should have sufficient experience and expertise in occupational health matters.
As a result of the above an Employer cannot claim that they only breached the law because of a failure by an employee or person appointed to give competent advice and assistance. The other main aspect of the ACOP is that Employers now need to clarify how emergency services can be contacted although in many circumstances this may only mean making sure that employees know the necessary telephone numbers to call.
The HSE have said that they will take account of the circumstances of each particular case before deciding whether any enforcing action is to be taken.