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Health and Safety Inspections

Volume 455: debated on Thursday 25 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what meetings he has had with the members of the board of the Health and Safety Executive to discuss the frequency of inspections in places of higher education in each of the last five years. (115480)

No DWP Ministers have had meetings with senior officials of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to discuss this specific issue during the last five years. Ministers do however meet regularly with the chief executive of HSE to discuss workplace health and safety issues.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many complaints were received from each university by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in each of the last five years; and how many (a) formal letters were sent and (b) Improvement Notices were issued by the HSE in connection with such complaints in this period. (115483)

270 complaints were received from universities over the last five years. The following table shows the breakdown by institution and by year. Of these, one complaint led to enforcement action through an improvement notice.

Institution

2001-02

2002-03

2003-04

2004-05

2005-06

2006-07

Grand total

Aberdeen university Research and Industrial Services

1

1

American Intercontinental university

1

1

Anglia polytechnic university

3

1

1

1

6

Aston university

1

1

1

3

Bournemouth university

1

1

Brunei university

1

1

Buckinghamshire Chilterns university college

1

1

Cambridge university press

1

1

Canterbury Christ Church university college

1

1

Cardiff university

——

2

3

1

6

De Montfort university

1

1

2

3

7

Heriot Watt university

1

1

2

Kingston university

1

1

2

Leeds metropolitan university

2

2

Liverpool Hope university college

1

1

2

Liverpool John Moores university

1

1

London metropolitan university

1

1

2

Loughborough university

1

1

Manchester metropolitan university

3

2

2

2

9

Middlesex university

1

1

2

Napier university

1

1

Nottingham Trent university

1

1

1

1

4

Oxford Brookes university

2

2

Queen Margaret university college

2

2

Robert Gordon university

2

1

3

Roehampton university of Surrey

1

1

Sheffield Hallam university

1

1

St. Marys university college

1

1

Staffordshire university

3

1

1

5

Thames Valley university

2

2

The open university

2

2

The University of Leeds

1

1

1

3

The university of Newcastle Upon Tyne

1

1

1

1

2

1

7

Unisecure Ltd: university of Hert

1

1

University college Chichester

1

1

University college for the Creative Arts

1

1

University college London

1

1

2

University college Northampton

1

1

University college of Wales—Aberystwyth

1

1

University college of Wales Swansea

1

1

University of Aberdeen

1

2

2

5

University of Bath

1

1

1

1

4

University of Birmingham

1

1

3

2

7

University of Bradford

1

2

1

4

University of Bristol

2

1

3

6

University of Cambridge

3

2

5

University of Central England in Birmingham

1

1

2

4

University of Central Lancashire

1

2

3

6

University of Coventry

1

1

1

3

University of Dundee

1

1

University of Durham

1

1

University of East Anglia

1

1

2

University of East London

1

1

University of Edinburgh

1

2

3

University of Essex

1

1

University of Exeter

1

1

2

University of Glasgow

1

1

1

1

4

University of Gloucestershire

1

1

University of Hertfordshire

1

1

University of Hull

1

1

2

University of Keele

1

1

University of Kingston

1

1

University of Lancaster

1

1

University of Leicester

1

1

University of Liverpool

2

1

3

University of London

1

1

1

1

1

5

University of Luton

1

1

2

University of Manchester

2

2

4

University of Manchester Institute of Science and In

1

1

2

University of Newcastle Upon Tyne

1

1

University of Northumbria at Newcastle

2

1

3

University of Nottingham

1

1

1

3

University of Oxford

1

1

1

3

University of Paisley

1

1

1

1

4

University of Plymouth

1

1

2

University of Portsmouth

1

1

University of Reading

1

2

4

7

University of Salford

3

2

5

University of Sheffield

2

2

University of Southampton

2

1

3

University of St. Andrews

1

1

University of Stirling

1

1

2

University of Strathclyde

1

1

1

3

University of Sunderland

1

2

2

5

University of Surrey

2

2

(University of Sussex at Brighton

1

1

2

(University of Teesside

1

1

University of the Arts London

1

1

2

University of the West of England

3

3

6

University of Wales—Lampeter

1

1

University of Wales college Newport

2

2

University of Wales college of Cardiff

3

2

2

7

University of Wales Institute Cardiff

1

1

2

University of Wales, Bangor

1

1

2

2

1

7

University of Warwick

1

1

1

3

University of Westminster

2

1

3

University of Wolverhampton

2

3

1

6

University of Wolverhampton Students Union

1

1

University of York

2

1

3

Grand total

58

49

41

46

46

30

270

Background

1. The one complaint that led to action by HSE Inspectors, was the issuing of an improvement notice to De Montfort University, which may have significance given the questioner’s constituency. The notice was issued on 9 June 2006; it was deemed complied with on 9 November 2006. The complaint was in respect of the lack of provision for Display Screen Equipment Assessments within the University

2. HSE’s policy is to investigate every complaint received however there are certain exceptions, for example where the complainant wishes to remain anonymous or where they have not already taken the matter up with their employer or Trade Union (if appropriate)

3. In addition and exceptionally, HSE may also decide that further investigation is not warranted as there are no simple precautions to implement, for example.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many formal letters of improvement notice issued by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to each university have (a) led to actions satisfying the requirement of the HSE and (b) remain unresolved in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement. (115489)

The Health and Safety Executive has issued 51 improvement notices to universities during the last five years. All have been resolved except one, which has been granted an extension for compliance to 31 January 2007.

The breakdown by university, by year, is shown in the following table:

Institution

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Grand total

Aston University

1

1

2

4

De Montfort University

1

1

1

1

4

Heriot Watt University

1

1

Loughborough University (Short Course Centre) Ltd

1

1

Manchester Metropolitan University

1

1

2

Nottingham Trent University

1

1

Royal Holloway, University of London

1

1

The Open University

2

2

The University of Leeds

1

1

The University of Manchester

1

1

University of Bath

2

2

University of Birmingham

1

1

University of Bristol

2

2

University of Buckingham

3

3

University of Cambridge

1

1

2

University of Central England in Birmingham

1

1

University of Central Lancashire

1

1

University of Lancaster

1

1

2

University of Leicester

1

1

University of Lincoln

1

2

3

University of Liverpool

1

1

2

University of London

1

1

University of Luton

3

3

University of Northumbria at Newcastle

1

1

University of Nottingham

1

1

University of Salford

2

2

University of Southampton

1

1

2

University of Stirling

1

1

University of the Arts London

1

1

University of Warwick

1

1

Grand total

6

7

7

16

4

11

51

HSE inspectors have a range of tools at their disposal to help secure compliance with the law, and to ensure a proportionate response to criminal offences. Inspectors may offer duty holders information, and advice, both face to face and in writing. This may include warning a duty holder that in the opinion of the inspector, they are failing to comply with the law. Where appropriate, inspectors may also serve improvement and prohibition notices, or they may prosecute. The choice of enforcement action is proportionate to the breach.

Improvement notices are served when in the opinion of the inspector an offence has been committed, but which, in the opinion of the inspector, can be remedied within a given timescale.

HSE's enforcement policy is normally to prosecute those who fail to comply with an improvement notice. However, there are occasions when it is not appropriate to prosecute and no further action is taken in relation to the notice. This would normally occur where prosecution is not in the public interest (for example, the client has ceased trading or, they have done enough work to essentially comply but there may be a minor deficiency which does not give rise to a health and safety risk). However, it should be noted that HSE will continue to monitor and enforce health and safety standards in these cases.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what representations he has received from (a) employees and (b) employee organisations within the higher education sector on (i) the frequency and effectiveness of inspections by health and safety executive (HSE) inspectors and (ii) the level of unresolved complaints to the HSE about higher education institutions. (115505)

No DWP Ministers have received such representations during the last five years. However, if organisations or individuals have concerns they are welcome to write to the HSE.

Background:

1. In marshalling HSE’s inspection resource, HSE seeks to target poor performers. The key criteria in establishing the frequency of inspections are the risks presented by particular duty holders, premises or industries and the ability and willingness of duty holders to manage those risks. Where the risk is low and duty holders’ ability high, visits are less frequent than where the risk is high and duty holders are failing to manage those risks. In targeting the inspection resource in this way, HSE believes it has the greatest impact on reducing work-related deaths, injuries and ill-health.

2. In 2003, HSE ceased to set targets for the number of inspection contacts. Such targets encouraged short visits to low risk places, whereas the Health and Safety Commission's strategy for workplace health and safety 2010 sought a sharper focus on injury and ill-health priorities, and more substantial contacts with a carefully selected range of duty holders. Over the last five years or so, the actual time HSE inspectors have spent interacting with and encouraging duty holders has increased by 23 per cent.

3. Important as inspection is, the frequency of inspections is not a particularly useful metric. The Health and Safety Commission’s strategy fully recognises the importance of inspection, and the threat of enforcement, as a powerful motivator for improved standards. But to be most effective, they need to sit alongside other interventions, such as encouraging partnership working, communications, and so on.

Inspection in Higher Education

4. HSE sees higher education as a mature sector. The risks are for the most part well known (including those associated with laboratory work with hazardous chemicals), well understood, well managed and there are well-established networks and institutions for their management. In line with the approach set out in paras 1-3 above, HSE has therefore no general proactive inspection programme.

5. However, this year, some proactive inspection will take place examining higher education institution’s management of work-related stress—HSE Inspectors will visit about 120 universities. Work related stress is one of the priority topics identified in the Commissions strategy for workplace health and safety 2010

6. This inspection activity follows a series of seminars in the autumn of 2006, to which all higher education institutions were invited—and which nearly 50 per cent. of all institutions attended—designed to equip institutions with knowledge and skills to tackle work-related stress through the use of HSE’s Stress Management Standards. This programme of inspection will look at whether the Management Standards (or any equivalent approach) is being used, or if it is, assist in ensuring action is maintained.

7. A second programme of inspection activity will look at the management of slipping and tripping hazards—a hazard the sector recognises as a particular issue—another of the Commission’s priority topics. These inspections will follow a series of nationwide seminars run by HSE, in partnership with the sector, which will equip attendees with the knowledge and skills to manage slips and trips.