Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, has announced the creation of a new building safety regulator within the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The announcement comes as part of the Governments' attempts to raise building safety and performance standards, including a more stringent regime for higher-risk buildings, following the tragedy of the Grenfell fire in 2017.

Chair of the HSE, Martin Temple, commented that the HSE were 'proud' to have been asked to establish the new regulator. They will work with industry and other regulators to improve safety, and use their experience implementing the new regime. Dame Judith Hackitt who formerly was chair of the HSE will chair a Board to oversee the transition.

Richard Jones, head of policy and regulatory engagement at IOSH, said: "While it's positive to hear the new Government declare it won’t tolerate the slow pace of improvement to building safety in the UK, which IOSH and others have raised concern over, we now need to see visible and tangible action, with these announcements just the start of an extensive and active delivery-programme. Working with the HSE will be reassuring for many, given it's a world-class regulator that secures near universal praise nationally. It has successful experience of co-regulation, as well as of operating permissioning and safety-case regimes and enforcing the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations, so should be ideally placed for such a role."

The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSE NI) have produced an innovative step-by-step guide which aims to help employers in effectively managing work-related stress.

The guide is in the form of a Management Standards wheel which provides a framework for employers to effectively manage stress at work at an organisational level.

It identifies six key aspects of work:

  • work demands;
  • relationships;
  • change;
  • role;
  • control; and
  • support,

which, if not managed properly, can lead to excessive pressures in the workplace.

Work-related stress can affect anyone at any level of an organisation and is not confined to a particular job, sector or industry. That type of stress can be defined as an adverse reaction to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed upon a person at work. Our day-to-day work plays a vital role in promoting mental well-being. In addition to being a source of income, our work provides a sense of fulfilment and opportunities for social interaction.

Unfortunately, work can also have negative effects on our mental health, particularly in the form of stress. For employers, increased levels of stress can result in decreased productivity, absenteeism, presenteeism and high staff turnover.

Speaking about the pressures associated with work-related stress and launching the guide, HSE NI's Mental Well-being at Work Advisor, Claire Kelly said: "There are many good reasons for tackling stress in the workplace. There is convincing evidence that prolonged periods of stress, including work-related stress, have an adverse effect on health. I hope this innovative step-by-step guide will serve as a useful aid to employers as they begin to manage this significant workplace health hazard."

For more information on this subject, see:

In an address to the House of Commons, Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government admitted that progress to make safe domestic high-rise buildings with unsafe flammable cladding had been 'unacceptably slow'.

Although bans on such cladding were introduced back in December 2018, work to make safe buildings where such cladding was present pose 'risk of a further loss of life'.

As part of new measures to be introduced by the Government to improve building safety, Jenrick announced that from February those responsible for buildings where works to fix tower blocks wrapped in Grenfell-style combustible cladding have not yet begun would be publicly named and shamed. Names would remain on the list until work began to remove the cladding.

315 high-rise blocks are still coated in the same style flammable cladding as Grenfell tower, 91 of these are owned by social tower block landlords and 143 privately-owned tower blocks.

Shadow housing secretary John Healey criticised the Government: “Why have 91 social tower block landlords still not replaced their ACM cladding when the secretary of state, this secretary of state, promised this would be done by last year?”

Leaseholders in the private sector have also faced problems over disputes as to who should pay for the removal of cladding, with some leaseholders quoted as much as £80,000 per household for the removal of cladding. Others are forced into high monthly payments for fire wardens for their buildings until the cladding is removed, leaving homeowners facing spiralling costs and unable to sell their homes.

The Government had set up a £200m private sector remediation fund to help leaseholders and Jenrick suggested that more financial support could be made available.

There were other developments in building safety announced by Jenrick in his address, including:

  • an extension on the ban on the use of combustible aluminium composite material on new buildings of any height, not just residential buildings over 18m;
  • broadening the requirements for sprinklers in new residential buildings by reducing the height for relevant buildings from 18m to 11m;
  • introducing requirements for all building owners to check the combustibility of external walls and apartment front doors.

He also announced that Dame Judith Hackitt will lead the creation of a new national building safety regulator, that seeks to make building owners criminally liable for safety.

The Government have come out as being committed to fully adopting the recommendations made in the Grenfell Tower inquiry phase 1 report. Their response to the recommendations is due to be published soon and further debates on the matter are scheduled in the House of Commons.

The Health and Safety Executive has published a revised edition of EH40 on workplace exposure limits (WELs).

This latest edition of the guidance has been updated to include a list of new and revised WELs which were introduced by Directive (EU) 2017/2398 amending Directive 2004/37/EC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to carcinogens or mutagens at work.

The new edition contains new or revised entries for the following substances:

  • Hardwood dusts (including mixed dusts);
  • Chromium (VI) compounds;
  • Refractory ceramic fibres;
  • Respirable crystalline silica;
  • Vinyl chloride monomer;
  • Ethylene oxide;
  • 1,2-Epoxypropane;
  • Acrylamide;
  • 2-Nitropropane;
  • 0-Toluidine;
  • 1,3-Butadiene;
  • Hydrazine; and
  • Bromoethylene.

New skin notations have been added for the following substance:

  • Ethylene oxide.

The following substances required reductions to the existing WELs:

  • Hardwood dusts;
  • Chromium (VI) compounds;
  • Refractory ceramic fibres;
  • Vinyl chloride monomer;
  • Ethylene oxide;
  • 1,2-Epoxypropane;
  • Acrylamide;
  • 2-Nitropropane;
  • 0-Toluidine;
  • 1,3-Butadiene; and
  • Hydrazine.

For more information on this subject, see:

The Queen’s speech at the opening of Parliament set out numerous Bills that will be proposed legislation in the upcoming months and years.

There were two key ones in the field of health and safety, which stemmed from the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 – the Fire Safety Bill, and the Building Safety Bill.

The Fire Safety Bill seeks to implement the relevant legislative recommendations from phase 1 of the public inquiry into Grenfell. It will clarify the scope of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order SI 2005/1541 includes external building walls, cladding and fire doors for domestic multi-occupancy premises. The Bill will also strengthen the relevant enforcement powers to hold building owners and managers to account.

The Building Safety Bill aims to establish recommendations made in the Hackitt review and put in place an enhanced safety framework for hi-rise residential buildings.

It aims to:

  • provide clearer accountability and stringer duties for the responsible person for the safety of hi-rise buildings;
  • give residents a stronger voice in the system to have their concerns addressed;
  • strengthen enforcement and sanctions for non-compliance;
  • develop a new clearer framework for national oversight of construction products;
  • develop a new system to oversee the whole built environment.

It will also require developers of new build homes to belong to a New Homes Ombudsman.

The Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 received Royal Assent on 15 November 2019 and aims It aims to make Scotland’s transport network cleaner, smarter and more accessible than ever before by empowering local authorities and establishing consistent standards to tackle current and future challenges.

The key parts of the Act are set out below:

National Transport Strategy

The Act requires the Scottish Ministers to prepare and consult on a National Transport Strategy.

This must set out the:

  • vision for transport to, from and within Scotland;
  • strategy for realising that vision; and
  • policies that will implement the strategy.

The National Transport Strategy (NTS2) Consultation has now concluded and the final version will be published online on Thursday 30 January 2020.

Low Emissions Zones

The Scottish Government is committed to introducing low emission zones into Scotland’s four biggest cities (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee) between 2018 and 2020, and the Act will help transform those cities into cleaner, healthier places to travel and enjoy.

The Act enables the creation and enforcement of low emission zones by local authorities, and will allow the Scottish Government to set consistent national standards for a number of key aspects including, but not limited to, emissions, penalties, certain exemptions and parameters for grace periods for low emission zones.

A low emission zone is a scheme under which individuals driving vehicles which fail to meet specified emission standards will be prohibited from driving those vehicles in contravention of the terms of the scheme as proposed by a local authority within a designated geographical area.

Typically, where a registered keeper of a vehicle breaches this rule, a penalty charge will be payable unless the vehicle is exempt.

Scotland's Low Emission Zones: Consultation on Regulations and Guidance is currently on-going, and responses are welcomed until 24 February 2020.

Workplace parking

The really controversial aspect of the Act has been the "workplace parking levy".

Local authorities will be given powers to make a workplace parking licensing scheme for all or part of their area, either alone or jointly with one or more other local authorities. Such a scheme can require people to obtain, for a charge, a licence to provide workplace parking places at premises in the area to which the scheme applies.

Employers, and owners/operators of car parks who lease or otherwise provide parking spaces to businesses, could be in a position where they need to obtain, and pay for, a licence to provide parking spaces to a wide range of people including workers, suppliers, customers and people attending education or training courses.

Parking places at many NHS premises are exempt from any charges under a scheme, but the scheme itself can also make provision for other specified persons, premises or motor vehicles to be exempt from the scheme or from paying charges under the scheme.

Glasgow City Council and the City of Edinburgh Council have both so far expressed an interest in exploring the potential for a workplace parking licensing scheme, and other local authorities are also likely to be considering the new powers.

Any net proceeds raised from the scheme must be applied towards achieving policies in local transport strategies.

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