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Health And Safety

Volume 949: debated on Tuesday 2 May 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a full statement about progress being made by both the private and public sector in implementing the Health and Safety At Work etc. Act 1974, especially with regard to the establishment of safety committees from 1978; if he is satisfied that proper provision is being made for the full and immediate implementation of these sections of the Act; and what action is being taken by his Department to ensure full implementation of the Act.

Responsibility for implementing the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 rests on all those, in both the private and public sectors, who create and work with risks and upon whom the Act imposes general duties. Apart from employers, this includes the self-employed, designers, manufacturers and suppliers of articles and substances for use at work, those who control premises, and employees. I am advised that the great majority of employers and others are making appropriate provision to meet their obligations under the Act. Of course, there are some who do not yet fully accept their responsibilities, and it is the job of the Health and Safety Executive and other enforcing authorities to ensure that appropriate action to secure compliance is taken in such cases.In so far as the regulations on safety representatives and safety committees coming into operation on 1st October are concerned, the responsibility for implementing these rests with employers and their recognised unions. These regulations do not lay down detailed provisions which everyone must follow regardless of circumstance. Although they set down some specific rights and duties, they in effect provide a broad framework within which it is possible to make a wide variety of arrangements. Indeed, if both employers and unions agree, there is nothing to prevent the continuance of existing consultative arrangements.I am pleased to say that many employers have already reached agreement with their trade unions on the arrangements for safety representatives and safety committees most suited to their needs and have brought these arrangements into operation on a voluntary basis. Others are now in active consultation with their trade unions. Some, unfortunately, have not yet made any preparations and will undoubtedly find themselves in difficulty in having to react to a new situation on 1st October on the basis of inadequate preparation. My ministerial colleagues and I and the Health and Safety Commission and Executive are taking every opportunity of meetings, conferences and so forth to bring home to employers the importance of preparing now, in consultation with their unions, for the coming into operation of the regulations.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many training courses for middle and senior management, on health and safety legislation and industrial safety, have been arranged by area directors and district inspectors of the Factory Inspectorate; what is the total number of managers who have so far attended these courses and how many courses are planned by the Factory Inspectorate for the financial year 1978–79.

I am informed by Her Majesty's Factory Inspectorate that area directors and district inspectors, now called principal inspectors, of Her Majesty's Factory Inspectorate do not arrange courses on health and safety legislation and industrial safety. The inspectorate is, however, often asked to provide speakers for training courses, conferences, seminars and so forth on these subjects arranged by other organisations. These requests are met when pressure of work permits and when the type of course and its members are likely to be such that the aims of the inspectorate are likely to benefit from the informaion on health and safety so disseminated. The decision on whether speakers should be provided is normally taken locally by the area directors in the light of the inspector's other commitments in that area, and no figures of lectures given are kept nationally.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he is satisfied with the level of training of safety representatives under the Health and Safety at Work, etc., Act 1974; and if he will make a statement.

I know that the trade union movement has put a great deal of effort into the training of members who will be appointed as safety representatives when the Safety Representatives and Safety Committee Regulations 1977 come into force on 1st October 1978. Many employers have co-operated in giving time off in advance of that date. I am confident that both trade unions and employers generally will continue to meet their respective responsibilities.