More prosecutions for senior managers
Published: 06 Jan 2012
The number of directors and senior managers prosecuted under section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 has increased by more than 400% in the last five years, according to unofficial Health and Safety Executive (HSE) figures released in response to a freedom of information request.
In October last year, solicitor Lee Hughes asked the regulator various questions regarding prosecutions of individual directors over the last 12 years. The figures reported back show that 43 directors and/or senior managers and company secretaries were prosecuted under section 37 of the Act in 2010/11 - the highest since 1999/2000. The total also represents a significant increase on the 12-year period's low of 10 prosecutions in 2005/06, and follows the period's previous high of 36 - recorded in both 2008/09 and 2009/10.
The total number of senior managers and directors prosecuted under section 37 in 2010/11 was 35. Of these, seven faced charges as a result of an investigation that followed a fatal accident; 15 were prosecuted for offences that resulted from an investigation where there had not been a fatal accident; and 21 resulted from an investigation where no incident of any nature had occurred.
Following conviction, three directors were disqualified for periods of between four and five years under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986. Data on this subject was not available before 2008/09, a year in which three directors were also disqualified. None were disqualified in 2009/10.
Disqualification is not however confined to section 37 breaches of the Act, other reasons can include breaches of sections 3, 7, 8 and 36, as well as a contravention of improvement or prohibition notices. In September last year, the Lib Dems put forward a policy paper advocating that the power to disqualify an individual from being a company director should be extended to include a serious failure to protect employees' well being. This is in addition to calls for the voluntary Institute of Directors/HSE Code of Practice on Directors' Duties to be made statutory.
Campaigners battle against no, no limits
Published: 06 Jan 2012
The Government has admitted breaching EU pollution legislation during a High Court battle with environmental campaign group, ClientEarth.
The group had complained that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) had failed to consult on proposals which demonstrated how the UK aimed to comply with EU limits of nitrogen dioxide.
ClientEarth asked the judge to declare that plans set out by Defra did not comply with EU law, and order Mrs Spelman to publish revised proposals.
But while Mr Justice Mitting said a Defra lawyer had conceded that "the Government is in breach of obligations", he declined to issue a "mandatory order" forcing Defra to publish new plans, ruling it was a matter for the European Commission.
A ClientEarth spokesman said, "The legal challenge against the Secretary of State has been brought because air quality plans for 17 regions and cities (including London, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Cardiff) will not comply with legal limits for air quality until after 2015. The deadline for achieving these limits was 1 January 2010. The Secretary of State is under a duty to ensure that levels of air pollution in the UK comply with limits set by EU law. Where these limits are exceeded, the Secretary of State must produce plans to ensure compliance as soon as possible."
A Defra spokeswoman said the department was happy that the judge has ruled in their favour. "A significant part of the UK meets EU air quality limits for all pollutants and air quality has improved considerably in recent decades. Our air quality plans set out all the important work being done at national, regional and local level to meet all EU limits in the shortest possible time."
For more information, see:
- Directive 2008/50/EC, on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe.
BCC untangles the red tape
Published: 06 Jan 2012
Despite Government promises, and the launch of the Red Tape Challenge, the Coalition's plans to reduce regulation are being ignored by many Government departments, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has warned.
It also discovered that four departments had ignored official warnings that new legislation, including this year's rise in the national minimum wage, was flawed.
In their report, Red Tape Challenged?, the BCC claims that of the 81 pieces of new regulation that Whitehall's independent Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC) flagged this year as either fundamentally flawed or containing errors, many have been implemented without changes.
The Business Department, which leads on red tape reform, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) had the highest proportion of regulations that contained errors but were not amended, the BCC said.
Adam Marshall, head of policy, said, "There are a lot of senior ministers working really hard to put a deregulation programme in place but some of their own departments are subverting the process."
More than 40% of the rules and regulations passing through Parliament this year were exempt from the independent scrutiny of the RPC and the Coalition's flagship "One in, One out" policy on regulations. These include regulations from Europe, tax, health and safety and environmental laws. The Business Department argued that the national minimum wage was not subject to independent scrutiny by the RPC because it fell under the "fees and charges" exemption.
Business minister Mark Prisk said, "We note the points made by the British Chamber of Commerce and will examine them with care. But we have put in place a robust, coherent, and transparent system that is beginning to change the culture across Whitehall. We're also doing everything we can in the EU to influence Commission thinking on its approach to regulation."
Health and safe-tree
Published: 22 Dec 2011
Festive celebrations in Cirencester have encountered problems this month, as council workers started dismantling the town's Christmas tree.
Townsfolk watched in dismay as the tree was stripped back, branch by branch with a chainsaw from the bottom up. Council land manager Jamie Walton told the local newspaper that a large 25ft split had been noticed in the trunk and scaffolding had been erected immediately to dismantle the tree for health and safety reasons.
He commented, "We've had to cut it down in sections because obviously we couldn't just chop it down in the middle of Market Place on a busy Friday, especially when its market day."
All is not well North of the Border either. South Queensferry has been forced to replace the town Christmas tree, which has traditionally decorated the roof of the registrar's office, with a 3ft tall shrub because of "health and safety." The replacement, bereft of any decorations, is barely visible from the street.
Council officials said that, following a visit by its health and safety inspectors, the size of the tree has been "scaled back" in case the roof collapses. Terry Airlie, secretary of the Queensferry and District Community Council, said, "The Christmas tree has been on the roof for years. It is the focal point of the year. So much effort goes into it in terms of raising money locally to do these sort of things. To see a Christmas tree like the new one is somewhat disappointing."
Locals are also concerned that the town's Christmas in Queensferry Festival, an event organised by the community and sponsored by local businesses, will be affected. Festively named Chairman Keith Giblett commented, "We are very disappointed with the tree given to Queensferry this year." His view was echoed by local conservative council Kate MacKenzie, who described the new tree as "pathetic."
A City of Edinburgh Council spokeswoman defended the move. "Due to how the tree could be safely secured, the size had to be scaled back. The roof is not designed to support a tree of a larger size. Were a suitable alternative location to be identified for next year by the local community, the Council would provide a larger tree."
Christmas time, mistletoe and tofurkey
Published: 21 Dec 2011
Christmas is a time of festivities, fun, games, terrible jumpers and unfortunately, waste. So to make your Christmas more environmentally friendly, why not follow some useful tips?
- as the UK uses approximately 200,000 trees worth of Christmas cards each year, why not send recycled cards, e-cards or make your own;
- avoid plastic, non-biodegradable decorations and use some of the natural decorations available, such as fir cones;
- make your own Christmas decorations using holly, ivy, berries and evergreen, or even string some popcorn up and use it as a garland - not only eco-friendly but tasty too;
- buying a real tree? Buy one that has been grown locally by a sustainable grower, and if it still has the roots attached, replant it so you can use it year after year;
- use energy saving lightbulbs and LEDs for your Christmas lights, or alternatively switch your lights off and get in the festive spirit by lighting scented candles;
- get creative with your wrapping and use old paper bags, posters, glossy magazines and decorate with scraps of fabric from old clothes - embroider an old sock with the person's name and feed the ribbon through the hole in the toe;
- don't get caught up with buying unwanted gifts for friends, why not make them a meal instead, make a donation to charity in their name or even adopt a penguin on their behalf;
- avoid using disposable plates and cutlery, use real crockery, especially if you have an energy saving dishwasher;
- recycle! Check what can be recycled by your local council and also at your nearest recycling bank;
- and finally...buy an organic turkey for the Christmas table, or even dazzle your tastebuds with tofurkey!
We at Cedrec are dreaming of a green Christmas, with every Christmas card we re-use, may your days be merry and energy-saving bright, and may all your Christmases be green!
Agency to crackdown on illegal waste sites
Published: 21 Dec 2011
The Environment Agency has set up a taskforce in order to crack down on illegal waste sites over the next two years in England and Wales. Such sites can threaten the environment, contaminate land and rivers and pose a risk to human health. The taskforce will include police detectives and will be funded by a £5 million investment from the Agency.
The Agency have so far identified around 600 active illegal waste sites in England and Wales, and it estimates that half of them will be within only 50 metres of schools, homes or sensitive environmental sites. Those running such sites could face extensive fines if caught. For example, the owner of an illegal waste site in Slough was given a two year community sentence and ordered to pay nearly £900,000 in August 2011 for running the site.
However, because of their serious impact on the environment, as well as being against the law, such sites have to be dealt with. Lord Taylor, the Environment Minister for England, said, "These sites do untold damage to the environment and cause misery for local people that have to live with toxic fumes, noise at all hours and unbearable smells."
The head of the Agency, Dr Paul Leinster, has stated that these crimes will not go unpunished. He said, "Waste crime is a serious offence. The Environment Agency is working with all enforcement agencies to stamp it out. If you're involved in illegal waste activities, you should be looking over your shoulder and expecting a visit from our enforcement officers. We'll press for the strongest possible penalties - including prison - for those convicted of these crimes against communities."
For more information, see the: