Health & safety compliance – competent help
The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations1999 require employers to appoint one or more `competent` personsto assist them in ensuring general health and safety compliance.Such persons must have sufficient time allocated to them in orderto fulfil this function, and also be given the necessary means todo so, having regard to the size of the organisation and the risksto which employs are exposed. Such persons can be directly employedor can be an external Health & Safety Adviser. The approvedCode of Practice which accompanies the Regulations suggests thatthe employment of external help should only take place if there isno relevant competent worker within theorganisation.
However, the appointment of an external Health and SafetyAdvisers does not absolve the employer from his general health andsafety responsibilities. Two recent cases have highlighted this.The first involved a company which pleaded guilty to health andsafety offences but stated that these offences were committed as aresult of poor quality advice received from their external safetyadviser. The court reiterated that the appointment of an externalhealth and safety adviser did not remove the company`sresponsibilities and it also emphasised that the choice of externaladviser is important. The employer must ensure the competence ofthe external adviser. Both the company and the Health & SafetyAdviser were fined and ordered to pay costs.
Similarly in the second case both the company and its Healthand Safety adviser were successfully prosecuted for collective andindividual failures in respect of the carrying out of riskassessments.
These cases serve as a reminder that the choice of anyexternal adviser must be based on recognised and genuine health andsafety competence.
This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.