Even the HSE gets it wrong!

For our last health and safety blog of 2017 we thought we would reassure you that everybody can get it wrong when it comes to health and safety!

You may not be aware that the HSE conducts a lot of research on various production techniques at their full time laboratory in Buxton. In October 2016, they were testing a prototype hydrogen storage vessel in order to determine if the design would be suitable for use. The vessel had been connected to a hydrogen source when the connector failed and a quantity of hydrogen escaped under pressure. The hydrogen ignited and injured a HSE employee, who was stood nearby. 

Now normally, you might expect that the HSE would be reluctant to investigate themselves, however in this case they did just that. Their own inspectors found that there was no safe system of work for testing, and that there had been a failure to assess, plan, manage and control a fairly obvious risk of death or serious injury. Their inspectors went further and advised that if the HSE had followed their own, longstanding, published advice then the accident would have been prevented.

Again, you might think that that would be the end of it. The HSE is a government body and so cannot be prosecuted in the same manner as the rest of us. Fair play to them, though, they didn’t think that merely saying they were wrong is enough. As punishment, therefore, they accepted a Crown Censure. This is not a financial penalty, however it is an official record of a failing to meet the standards set out in law.

So what does this all have to do with the rest of us then? Well it highlights that even the experts aren’t infallible. Everyone can make mistakes and everyone can have lapses of judgement etc. What it does make us aware of though, is that the HSE looks at every incident in the same way. They’re not necessarily wanting to stop dangerous activities from happening, but they are looking for all activities to be planned, assessed, managed and controlled as far as is reasonably practicable. They are also looking for employees to be adequately trained to undertake the necessary tasks.

If you can ensure that you’re doing the above then you can be reassured that you are protecting yourself from criticism. If you have any doubts about whether you’re doing everything that you should be, please do not hesitate to contact ProAktive and we’ll be happy to discuss your needs further.

From everyone at ProAktive, we hope that you have a very merry Christmas! See you in 2018!

Ian Clayton CMIOSHHealth & Safety Manager

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