News

 Mr Francis Anthony Heaton from Manchester was jailed for 12 months after pleading guilty to dumping 100 tonnes of pungent processed household waste on the site of the Kingfisher Special School in Oldham. The school had been left with a £22,197 bill for removal.

A representative of the special school stated to the police that the school gates were cut open to allow access for the waste to be deposited on the piece of land at the school used as parking, disrupting the education of pupils, some with life-limiting conditions, for two weeks. Fly infestation and risk of disease meant that pupils were not able to use any outdoor education facilities.

The school was helped by Oldham Council to remove the waste from its site, however, the cost of removal was placed upon the school to pay, which is equivalent to an annual salary of a teaching assistant or the school's annual budget for learning resources.

Mark Easedale who is the Area Environment Manager for the Environment Agency (EA) said: "This case demonstrates how seriously the EA takes illegal waste crime. We take robust enforcement action against those who deliberately ignore the law to protect communities and the environment. Heaton put the welfare of the pupils at risk and disrupted their education. This case is particularly disturbing as the Kingfisher Special School were made to pay to clear the waste."

A challenge to the decision to grant a variation to an environmental permit has been dismissed in the case of R. (on the application of Friends of the Earth Limited) v The Environment Agency v Cuadrilla Bowland Limited.

Cuadrilla was granted an environmental permit relating to shale gas exploration in January 2015, which contained conditions limiting the daily injection of fracturing fluid to 765m3. In June 2017, Cuadrilla applied to vary their environmental permit in five ways, including a proposed variation of this limit so that it became a limit of 765m3 per hydraulic fracturing stage.

During the consultation on the proposed variation, the Claimant submitted representations regarding the potential increase of flowback fluid produced as a result of the variation, and to argue for the consideration of alternative techniques which would maximise the rate of flowback fluid re-use.

In December 2017, the Environment Agency issued a varied permit notice, outlining that the limit variation would not increase risk, but would bring the wording in-line with the approved Waste Management Plan.

The Claimant challenged this decision on the grounds that no consideration was given to whether alternative techniques would constitute best available technique (BAT) for the treatment and re-use of flowback fluid in the varied permit; the Agency did not encourage emerging techniques when granting the variation; and the Agency did not consider the Claimant's original representations.

The grounds argued a breach in the Agency's duties, especially regarding whether the Agency had a duty to consider what amounted to BAT for flowback fluid. Having considered the parties' submissions, the legislation itself and evidence presented, Mr Justice Supperstone decided that the Agency had not breached its duties. As a result, the claim was dismissed and permission was granted.

MPs in the House of Commons have backed a campaign to establish a legal duty on employers to train staff in mental health first aid.

The motion called for the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations SI 1981/917 to be amended to include a legal duty on employers to train staff in mental health first aid, and emphasise that employer's first aid responsibilities cover both physical and mental health.

The amendment received MPs backing during a backbench debate, this is a debate where backbench MPs can table and debate a motion in Parliamentary time that isn't Government controlled. Despite MPs who were present backing the motion, the Government are not required to take action as a result of a backbench debate.

MPs from across the political parties tabled the motion, including Labour MP Luciana Berger, Conservative MP Johnny Mercer and Liberal Democrats MP Norman Lamb.

MP Luciana Berge stated in the debate: ''This really would be a simple shift, but one with a huge beneficial impact on the lives of millions of British workers. No one can seriously contend that there is not a need for such a measure. A number of unions have come out in support of the change to the law we are seeking to make today. Community, The Teachers' Union and Unite were all signatories to the letter to the Prime Minister I just mentioned, and the Communications Workers Unions and the GMB have since joined calls for this change to the law.''

MP Johnny Mercer also argued for the change, saying that employer's goodwill alone to manage mental health can't be relied upon, he added: ''Ultimately, this is too big a challenge to be left to personalities involved in companies at different times. Sometimes we have to legislate for it. This is not a problem for the companies that already do this, but sometimes the most vulnerable people in our communities deserve the government legislating and letting them know that we are on side.''

MP Norman Lamb also backing the motion, warned of the danger of mental health simply becoming a 'tick box' exercise for companies. He commented: ''There is a risk of the tick-box exercise, where an employer can just say, ‘Yes, we have trained someone up in mental health first aid. We’ve done nothing else, but we have ticked the box and therefore we have met the regulation.' That would be a failure for all of us if that was the outcome of this exercise. The more fundamental point is that the approach we should be taking is about preventing ill health in the workplace ... we have to think about the causes of stress and anxiety in the workplace. Often, it is due to unhealthy workplaces, where people are not respected and where there is a bullying culture. Depressingly, we see that quite often in the NHS. That has to be confronted, because that is the cause of so many people feeling anxious, distressed and depressed as a result of what happens at work.''

There has been increasing support to address mental health in the workplace, especially in light of the latest Health and Safety Executive statistics that show 600,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety cases in 2017/18, and more working days were lost due to stress, depression or anxiety than by any other cause. 

It will be interesting to see if the Government take further action on this important issue and create further legal obligations for employers. Rest assured, if they do, Cedrec will keep you informed of any changes.

 

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has announced the introduction of enforced control measures for welding operations.

This follows the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifying welding fumes and UV radiation as a Group one carcinogenic.

There are four groups used to classify carcinogens, and Group one represents substances with the highest level of risk. This group contains just over 100 substances which are classed as 'carcinogenic to humans'.

The HSE's enforced control standards state that all forms of welding fume can cause cancer, and regardless of duration, they will no longer accept any welding carried out without any suitable exposure control measures in place, as there is no known level of safe exposure.

Therefore, control is required where:

  • indoor welding tasks require the use of local exhaust ventilation (LEV);
  • if LEV is unable to control fume capture the respiratory protective equipment (RPE) is also required; and
  • outdoor welding requires the use of RPE.

Enforcement of these raised control standards has immediate effect and will fall under Regulation 7, on prevention or control of exposure to substances hazardous to health, under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations SI 2002/2677.

The HSE is currently developing an intervention plan in relation to this announcement, and will issue a safety alert in the coming weeks along with associated control requirements.

An HSE spokesperson stated: ''HSE is currently reviewing evidence relating to the exposure to welding fumes from working on all types of metal. We are consulting with industry stakeholders to prepare for any additional measures needed to control exposure to welding fumes. We will confirm the updated position as soon as is appropriate.''

Michael Edwards, who represents IOSH on the Industry and Regulatory Forum on Local Exhaust Ventilation (LEV) commented: ''The raised control standards for welding fumes are now in effect for organisations within the UK and will have implications to a whole range of different industries where welding operations occur. Further efforts must be made to protect workers involved in welding as part of their roles. IOSH urges employers in the UK to review current welding control measures in place to ascertain that they meet these raised control standards. This may also mean that risk assessments and risk registers may need updating to ensure that they reflect the new requirements.''

For more information, see the:

  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations SI 2002/2677.

Companies in the UK are being urged to disclose how many of their workers have a disability or a mental health condition in a drive for greater transparency.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), employers and charities, have developed a Framework to support employers that want to report the information.

The Guide is intended for organisations with more than 250 employees but can also be used by smaller businesses.

It advises on how to collect data for reporting, includes recommended questions and a series of prompts to shape the employer narrative.

Question topics include:

  • job satisfaction;
  • rating of overall mental health;
  • recording of anxiety in a given day.

The answers will provide a starting point for employers to measure employee wellbeing through anonymous staff surveys and self-service HR records.

The Framework states that by recording and reporting information on disabilities, mental health and wellbeing, there could be an improvement of employee engagement and retention; disability-friendly recruitment; inclusive environments for workers; and a cultural shift towards increased transparency.

Sarah Newton, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, urged employers to take part in the Framework to drive diversity and inclusivity in their businesses. She added "our voluntary reporting framework builds on our long-standing commitment to companies to help them in supporting their staff at all levels to create more inclusive workforces".

The Framework was welcomed by Anna Bird, Director of Policy and Research for national disability charity SCOPE, although "the Government must ensure that this information shapes future approaches to increasing disability employment".

This opinion agreed by Denise Keating, chief executive for Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion, who sees the Framework as a "first step" towards organisations reporting their disability pay gap.

For more information on this subject, see:

 

New prohibitions on animal traps
Published: 17 Jan 2019

New provisions come into force on 28 March 2019 which place new prohibitions on the use of traps or snares.

The Humane Trapping Standards Regulations SI 2019/22 add new provisions to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which add further restrictions on traps or snares to kill, take or restrain:

  • Badgers,
  • European beavers;
  • Pine Martens;
  • Common Otters;
  • Stoats (from 1 April 2020).

However, under the new provisions, traps and snares can be used in such a way as long as a licence has been granted for doing so. Those involved in the setting of humane traps must meet certain conditions before a licence will be granted, and must obtain a licence to continue setting the traps mentioned above after 28 March 2019.


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