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Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
January 16, 2024

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Fieldfisher and SHP: Horizon-scanning for 2024

SHP is pleased to announce an editorial partnership with Fieldfisher LLP. The Fieldfisher Health and Safety team, led by Andrew Sanderson, have been frequent contributors to SHP during 2023 and will bring monthly insights from their desk to our readers.

European law firm, Fieldfisher, has a footprint across the UK and Ireland, which includes its Health and Safety team. Andrew is assisted in London by Senior Associate, Elliott Kenton; Associate, Kirstie Imber; and Solicitor, Krysteen Ormond.

Krysteen Ormond, Solicitor at Fieldfisher

Neil Cahill (Director) and Kieran Tomlinson (Senior Legal Professional) from the Dublin and Belfast offices add to the roster, while Beth Thompson has recently joined the Manchester office to bolster the firm’s offering in the North.

In the first of a regular collaboration piece, we asked the Fieldfisher team what they expect from the 2024 health and safety landscape.

The Draft Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill (i.e. the ‘Protect Duty’)

The Draft Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill is likely to be progressed through Parliament during 2024. The proposed Bill will introduce the ‘Protect Duty’ onto the statute books, otherwise known as ‘Martyn’s Law’.

“This new law will place a requirement on those responsible for certain public premises or events to consider the risk of a terrorist attack occurring at their premises/event and, in some cases, take steps to mitigate against such risks – for example, by undertaking a terrorism risk assessment, providing staff with terrorism protection training, and implementing reasonably practicable security measures.

“The fact King Charles touched upon the new legislation in his 2023 Christmas address shows how significant the Government considers this change in law to be”, explained Beth Thompson, who was involved with the Public Inquiry into the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing, the terrorist attack which ultimately led to the creation of the Protect Duty and later the Draft Bill. The law is still in draft form, but may be passed later this year.

“There are still elements of the Draft Bill that require clarification, and we expect the Government to issue further guidance that will enable future persons that are responsible for qualifying public premises and events to be able to understand their new obligations, and discharge of their duties accordingly.”

This will likely include investment by companies into new policies and procedures to address the risk of terrorism, staff training, and enhanced security/safety measures, such as CCTV upgrades, enhanced security staff, and protective infrastructure like fences and bollards. “These changes and investments could take some time to prepare for and implement, so we would urge companies that own or operate in qualifying premises/events to start tracking the Draft Bill’s progress through its legislative process, to ensure that they are on the foot following its enactment,” Beth continued.

Psychosocial risk and emotional wellbeing at work

Elliott Kenton, Senior Associate at Fieldfisher

“The HSE have made it very clear that a reduction in workplace mental ill-health and stress is a core strategic objective in the coming years and we expect that they will be focused on stress and mental health in the workplace throughout 2024 through awareness and inspection campaigns” said Elliott Kenton in his response to what regulators will be focusing on in 2024.

“The latest HSE annual statistics show that 51% of all cases of work-related illness relate to anxiety, depression, stress, or other mental wellbeing factors. This amounts to a staggering 17 million lost work days over the last reporting period, which only highlights just how prevalent stress and poor mental health is within the workplace.

“Some sectors have higher reported rates of stress and poor mental health attributable to working patterns but this is a universal issue affecting all industry sectors, which the HSE recognises” Elliott added.

Elliott continued: “The core statutory health and safety obligations contained in health and safety legislation have traditionally been focussed on the “safety” aspect of that duty. However, there is now a seismic shift towards understanding what is necessary to protect health. Historically, health was defined narrowly to occupational disease, but it is clear on the statistics alone that the statutory duty to protect health and in particular mental health needs to be brought to the forefront.”

Elliott, who has almost a decade of experience advising on Health and Safety, continued. “As the HSE has put psychosocial risk front and centre in its new strategy, we predict that the HSE will begin to investigate and potentially take enforcement action in incidences where the workplace environment has contributed to increased stress and poor mental health of an employee. This may be particularly prevalent in a case of suicide which may be attributed to workplace factors.”

Building safety

Kirstie Imber, Associate at Fieldfisher

A significant number of Fieldfisher’s Health and Safety contacts come from within the construction industry, so the firm has been keeping a close eye on the Building Safety Act 2022 and the role the HSE will play in regulating building safety.

Kirstie Imber explained, “The Building Safety Act 2022 created a new, strict regime for residential high-rise buildings – and when we say ‘high-rise’, we mean anything with more than 7 storeys or about 18m in height – including a requirement for them to be registered with a new Building Safety Regulator which sits inside the HSE.”

The HSE estimates there to be between 12,000-13,000 buildings within the England that would meet the criteria for registration but by the registration deadline of 01 October 2023, there was a still a high number of buildings where applications had commenced but not been submitted. “Failure to register a building that falls within the requirements of the Act carries criminal liability, so this is more than just an administrative tick-box for the industry.

“The Government and HSE have publicly said that they want to see renewed public confidence in the building sector and the new regulatory regime is part of their plan to achieve this. It is going to be really key for the sector to operate within the new framework, to avoid being on the wrong side the newly constituted regulator and avail themselves to enforcement action.”

The Building Safety Regulator is also tasked with oversight of the entire safety and performance regulation system for buildings across England. Within this remit is improvements to competencies of professionals within the construction industry, and from April 2024, all building inspectors must be accredited with the Regulator as part of a new registration scheme. Drawing on her experience advising and defending construction clients, Kirstie noted, “Whilst the public are likely to welcome the new transparency in the sector, we are acutely aware of the additional pressures this is going to place on the industry in the short-term, as they look to ensure all of their operations and their supply chains can comply with the new regimes.”

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