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July 19, 2009

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ICL report fails to address gaps in safety culture, argue academics

An independent study group of academics has criticised Lord Gill’s

report into the ICL Plastics explosion over its failure to address a

number of issues related to the general health and safety culture of

the Glasgow plant.

The study group, based at Stirling and Strathclyde Universities, welcomed several of the report’s recommendations, relating to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), employer responsibility for workers’ health and safety, and the HSE’s enforcement failings on LPG issues. However, it has denounced the report as “very narrow” and its recommendations as “very restricted”, underlining that “the failures that still require urgent action relate to those of ICL and companies like them at board and senior level”.

High on the group’s agenda is a call for a Scottish Corporate Killing Act with individual director and senior manager accountability, and the potential for the assets of convicted employers to be reclaimed. The group also criticises the courts for being too hasty to ‘take for granted’ information provided by employers and others about their health and safety management practices and financial resources.

With regard to the failings of the HSE identified in the Gill report, the group not only restates the need for the regulator to be sufficiently funded but suggests that its field inspectorate could be devolved in Scotland “to ensure full national accountability and scrutiny”. In addition, the group wants legal requirements imposed to ensure that information on workplaces where problems have been identified are shared across agencies — in particular, local-authority planning departments, the Fire Brigade, the Police, and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency.

A final set of recommendations by the group centres around effective consultation between employers and the workforce. It calls for extended rights for union safety representatives, including the right to issue provisional Improvement Notices, as well as the introduction of roving safety reps.

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