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The HSE is committed to pushing ahead with plans to withdraw the Approved Code of Practice relating to the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR), despite considerable opposition from those consulted on the change.
Out of a total of 214 respondents, who expressed their views on a proposal to withdraw the MHSWR ACoP and replace it with more specific and updated guidance, 112 (52 per cent) disagreed outright with the plan.
The Government’s rationale for the change is that, owing to its generic nature, the ACoP is unable to offer the ‘practical guidance’ for which such documents are intended. Identified as being in need of reform by both Lord Young and Professor Löfstedt in their respective reports, the ACoP is set to be replaced by structured, well-signposted guidance, including:
Objections to the proposal include fears that the ACoP’s removal would result in less compliance, as it might give the impression the law has changed, or dilute the importance of the Regulations. Having to locate the information contained in the ACoP in several different places could also lead to more confusion and increase the number of documents people have to read.
Conversely, some respondents said that, if done properly, the change could result in a sensible, time-saving and easily-implemented document, and aid understanding among non-health and safety people.
The proposal forms part of a much broader consultation on streamlining and revising the HSE’s ACoPs – as recommended in the Löfstedt report. The consultation, which closed in September last year, sought views on proposals for the revision, consolidation, or withdrawal of 15 ACoPs (including the MHSWR Code of Practice), which are to be completed by the end of this year. Views were also sought on proposals for minor revisions, or no changes, to a further 15 ACoPs, for completion by 2014.
In a paper presented to the HSE Board last month, the lack of a clear majority in favour of, or against, the withdrawal of the MHSWR ACoP was highlighted. The paper noted a similar situation in relation to a proposal to withdraw the ACoP on ‘Preventing accidents to children on farms’; as well as significant support for the withdrawal of the ACoP for the ‘Design, construction and installation of gas-service pipes’.
The paper stated: “For all three proposals there were common concerns relating to how the removal of guidance with ACoP status might be perceived and what the potential impact on duty-holder behaviour might be.
“While these concerns are relevant, they are not in themselves considered to present sufficient argument for retaining the ACoPs. The concerns reported could be adequately addressed by clearly restating regulatory requirements when promoting the alternative guidance that will be available. Our conclusion is that we can and should proceed with the withdrawal of these ACoPs.”
The Board plans to consider three separate papers formally proposing the withdrawal of each of these ACoPs. The papers will present the final rationales for their withdrawal, along with arrangements for the publication and communication of any alternative guidance.