In 2022, The Health and Safety (HSE) launched a new 10-year strategy: Protecting People and Places. This is strategy that reflects HSE’s role at its broadest. A role that goes beyond worker protection, to include public safety assurance on a range of issues, as we adapt to new technologies, the government’s commitment to the net zero agenda, and HSE’s added responsibilities, including becoming the appointed Building Safety Regulator, and our extended role in chemical regulation, post Brexit. This Health and Safety Executive (HSE) series of free podcasts will cover a range of subject matters to help businesses and workers understand HSE’s strategic priorities, its campaigns and the main challenges we collectively need to address.
Wednesday Jul 12, 2023
Wednesday Jul 12, 2023
Wednesday Jul 12, 2023
In this podcast, we discuss HSE’s Dust Kills construction campaign. Duncan Smith, Acting Head of Unit, Field Operations Division Health Unit at HSE and Abigail Bainbridge, Group Health, Safety & Environment, Director at Persimmon Homes, and Home Builders Federation H&S committee member, talk us through the risks of breathing in construction dust and what those working in construction need to know to ensure their respiratory health is protected at work. For more information on the Dust Kills campaign, and to download our free resources for employers and workers, visit: Construction Dust - Work Right to keep Britain safe
Dust Kills construction campaign podcast transcript:
Mick Ord (Host):
Every year in the construction industry, there are thousands of preventable cases of irreversible lung disease due to past exposure to dust at work. These diseases often have a life-changing impact and can result in an early death. Indeed, it's estimated that more than 500 construction workers die from exposure to silica dust every year.
And as we'll discover in this podcast, the amounts needed to cause this damage are not large. My name's Mick Ord, and welcome to the latest episode in our series of HSE podcasts designed to make us all better informed about health and safety at work, whether you are a business owner or a worker. So, whether you are part of a large, well-established company, a small business, or a new start-up, we hope you might learn some more about the dangers of exposure to construction dust and what you can do to reduce risk and perhaps most important of all to act now.
HSE inspectors will be visiting construction sites all over the country, checking that employers and workers know the risks involved in breathing in dust, and have the right plans in place, and are using the right controls to reduce the health risks of inhaling construction dusts, including silica and wood dust.
The inspections are being backed up by HSE's 'Dust Kills' campaign which offers accessible advice and guidance on the Work Right website, which we'll be mentioning again later, and putting a link in the episode notes accompanying this podcast.
With me are two people who will be able to tell us some more about the health risks of inhaling dust in places such as building sites and workshops, and crucially, what can be done to significantly reduce those risks. HSE's Duncan Smith is a chartered occupational hygienist with more than 30 years of experience.
Duncan was a consultant in the private sector before joining HSE as a specialist inspector in 2010. He's currently the acting head of operations in the Field Operations Division Health Unit.
Abigail Bainbridge is the Group Health and Safety and Environment Director at one of the country's largest house builders Persimmon Homes. She's also a member of the Home Builders Federation and has a background in health and safety law. Welcome both.
Duncan, if I can start with you first, how big is the problem of occupational lung disease in the UK?
Thanks, Mick. Across all industry sectors, there's an estimated 12,000 deaths each year due to previous exposures at work. This is a key priority for HSE to reduce work-related ill health. Of those 12,000 deaths, there's approximately 500 construction deaths each year due to past exposure to silica alone.
Mick Ord (Host): Those are really worrying numbers, aren't they? So, what specifically is HSE doing about this?
Duncan Smith: As I said, this is a key priority for HSE, and every year we're actively inspecting the construction sector. We will go out and have health initiatives, and we have data for 2022 where there were two major health-focused initiatives including this particular respiratory health initiative.
HSE inspectors did something like 1,268 inspections during the respiratory health initiative, and the topic of control of silica exposure was considered by inspectors 512 times. They found that the best standards were seen at home build sites and the worst practices were at domestic refurbishment and street works inspections.
And then thinking specifically about respiratory sensitisers, this is where wood dust exposure is important. Respiratory sensitisers, where the substance may cause occupational asthma. Inspectors considered this particular topic 347 times, and again, poorer standards were noted compared to during previous initiatives, and domestic refurbishment was where the highest non-compliance was seen.
Mick Ord (Host): What are the key things that construction workers need to know then Duncan?
Duncan Smith: It is important that construction workers understand the hazards that they're working with. HSE has some very good information on their website, and the Dust Kills campaign gives a lot of really good information about this.
Thinking about the hazards in construction, silica dust is very frequently experienced. Even though silica is a naturally occurring substance, it is a hazardous substance when used at work, and we may not always be aware that we are using silica because it might be present in some construction materials such as brick or mortar or cement or paving slabs or tiles.
The dust can be very fine when power tools are used, and it can get very dusty. If that very fine dust is breathed down deep into the lungs it can cause serious lung diseases such as lung cancer or silicosis or something called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). These diseases are often irreversible and can cause permanent disability and early death.
The risk is often from exposure over a long period. You may not always notice symptoms for a long time, but each exposure to that dust adds up within the lungs and the airways can get progressively more and more damaged. Unfortunately, by the time you do notice you have a problem, the damage is done. The disease can also be made worse by smoking.
Silica is only a risk once it forms fine respirable dust. And by that we mean when it's so small, it can get down into the deep lung. The greater the level of dust in air, the higher the risk. High dust levels are caused by some of the following factors. High dust concentrations. Now, these could be caused by the use of power tools because of the motive, force, and power that they have in them generate lots and lots of dust.
For example, cut off saws, or power saws, grinders, wall chasers, and grip blasters. These can produce very high amounts of dust in air in a very short time. Similarly, dry sweeping using a sweeping brush can make lots of dust or raise lots of dust when compared to vacuuming or wet brushing. The location might be an important factor as well.
The more enclosed the space, the more the dust can build up, and it may not be diluted as it might be if it was outside. The longer the time dust is generated over, the more dust there will be, and if you spend a lot of time in that environment, the more dust you could potentially breathe into your deep lung.
And frequency as well. The more regular the exposure occurs, such as day after day, this increases the risk quite a lot. So, what you do need to do to protect yourself is to follow the hierarchy of control that is set out in the COSHH regulations –the control of substances hazardous to health– at a very high level.
That starts off at: can you eliminate the risk from the process? So, can you eliminate dust by effective design and planning of the process? If you can't do that, then you're going to need to minimise the risk by using suitable control measures. you should always ensure control measures identified are used properly, and that's going to require training and supervision of those that are using the control measures.
Mick Ord (Host): Thanks, Duncan. Abigail Bainbridge from Persimmon Homes within your company and through the Home Builders Federation network of businesses, what's being done to protect workers' respiratory health on site?
Abigail Bainbridge: Thanks, Mick. Well, it's certainly in terms of persimmon and my home builder peers, we are really looking at a simple set of controls.
Firstly, we try where we can to eliminate the risk that can be getting the manufacturer to pre-cut materials, for example, bricks or wood. We also want to make sure we're using the right tool or method for the job. For example, using a block splitter rather than a saw to cut blocks, so it reduces the amount of dust that's created.
We also use, uh, water suppression to dampen down the dust, and even now you can get battery-powered dust suppressors. We also make sure that the right kind of vacuum is being used. We don't want those Henry Hoovers out there; we want a proper M-Class vacuum being used when cleaning up. One of the biggies for all of us is the use of FFP3 masks and ensuring that the user has been face fit tested and is clean shaven.
We all know that using an FFP3 mask whilst the person's wearing a beard or has stubble, is a bit like a scaffolder wearing a harness without clipping on. So that's one of the big areas that we all try and enforce. We also like to use local exhaust ventilation on certain equipment like chop saws, routers, and sanders.
So, Yeah, a multitude of measures, but all, all relatively simple ones that the large home builders like Persimmon can use, but also the smaller SMEs as well.
Mick Ord (Host): You mentioned, uh, face masks there and I was fascinated when I looked at the HSE website one of the information sheets to see that people with stubble and beards really shouldn't be allowed to wear certain types of masks.
Abigail Bainbridge: Absolutely. Yeah, and it's a big problem for us, and I think across the whole industry as well. I think beards are quite trendy at the moment as well, which makes it difficult for us, especially when managing our contractors. So yeah, I think that's one of the biggest challenges for all of us, is trying to educate our contract workforce that just having a mask isn't enough. It needs to be face-fit tested. And if they are wearing a beard or have stubble, it's just not going to work. And I see that as being one of the biggest challenges in terms of operatives using the right equipment.
Mick Ord (Host): There's a potential HR problem there, isn't there? If a worker refuses to wear one of the right masks because he's got stubble or he is wearing a beard, that is a knotty issue we can all recognise, can't we?
Abigail Bainbridge: Absolutely. And as employers, we need to recognise that. And there is equipment like a full-face powered respirator out there. I, I think it's about engagement with your workforce on this topic. It's explaining to them why you are asking them to wear an FFP3 mask and talking to them about why then they don't want to be clean-shaven. And then if you know, if they're really insistent that that's what they don't want, then obviously as an employer you've got to look at other equipment that's available. But I think a first step is just having a dialogue with the worker. Because if you explain to them, look, this is for your own protection. If you don't wear this later on in life, you could be seriously ill. Many will understand and decide, yeah, I'll have a shave in the morning. But yes, it is a thorny topic and I think the one that really is a challenge for employers and contractors like Persimmon and others.
Mick Ord (Host): Duncan back to you. You mentioned before designing out risk and control measures. Can you explain what that means and maybe give us some examples of that?
Duncan Smith: Yeah, thanks, Mick. I think there's a few, a few examples I can think of. Particularly things like cutting blocks and paving and kerb stones. You can actually design and plan the work to limit the amounts of cuts that you need and working with your suppliers to make sure that you don't have to cut as many things as you perhaps might do. It is a change in approach, but you could also use lower energy equipment and Abigail referred to a block cutter or a block splitter. Using that rather than a power saw or cut-off saw, which would've been the traditional method, is a lot lower energy. And actually, they're relatively cheap to either buy or hire. They may also be savings in terms of speed. A block splitter might actually cut a larger block or, or paving slab quicker, and it will certainly produce a very much smaller amount of dust than, the high energy associated with a cut off saw, sometimes referred to as a power saw. There's an easy one that can have a significant reduction in terms of the amount of dust that's generated and silica within those blocks or paving or kerb stones.
Can you get material cut offsite? Can you set up a specific cutting area on your site where you've got extraction, where, uh, somebody is wearing, uh, relevant to respiratory protective equipment.? Uh, Abigail was given some good examples from what Persimmon Homes do, and I think there's some really good leads we can follow.
There were some good examples of how you control the risks. Well, water suppression, again, that's something that, uh, Abigail mentioned, but it's very easy to do. To use a relatively small amount of water that's added to the tool. For example, a typical 5-litre bottle of water, or 10-litre bottle of water with a pump mechanism delivering water at uh, 0.5 litres per minute onto a saw blade has a significant effect in terms of reducing the amount of dust generated.
During the cutting using power tools. You know, this is quite common to see o on, uh, roadworks and certainly curb stone and paving works. If you're driving out and about, uh, in your car, you, you'll often see that type of really low technology, low-cost control measures being used, but it's quite far up the hierarchy of control because it's quite reliable as long as you've got a supply of water that always works.
Similarly, lots of, uh, power tools these days. They're designed to take on tool extraction. This could be, uh, an H-Class or M-Class vacuum cleaner that attaches to the power tool, and it captures most of the dust that's generated. So, there's some really simple methods., other methods that could be used, you know, in terms of designing out the risk rather than just focusing on the control –cable chasing, for example, can you design and plan the layout of the job to limit the need for chasing cables into walls? Can you use methods that limit or eliminate chasing, such as overcovering cables, such as putting them into a plastic cover? So, there is lots of technology coming onto the market that, uh, allows us to, uh, design out risk and minimise the amount of dust that could be generated.
And I would urge companies to have a look at their supply chains and challenge and, you know, see what is available. Roof tile setting out, for example, on roofing projects, rather than making lots of, uh, cuts to tiles, some of the larger tile manufacturers are fabricating one and a half or half tiles to limit the number of cuts that need to be made and dry fixing methods as well may also eliminate or minimise the amount of cuts that need to be made, which again reduces the amount of dust that's generated. And can reduce exposure to workers on construction sites.
Mick Ord (Host): Excellent stuff. Thanks, Duncan. Abigail, in your view, what's the one thing that industry could do to reduce the numbers of people suffering from occupational lung disease? In terms of priority ideally.
Abigail Bainbridge: I think it goes back to the basics of education and awareness.
We do need to tackle our younger generation of joiners, or bricklayers who are coming through to make sure that they're wearing the right protective measures. We do have a bit of a culture where, you know, the older generation aren't wearing the masks and we just don't want them to be leading the example to the younger generation.
So, I think it's about everyone understanding the serious consequence of being exposed to construction dust, everyone thinking about their older self and what impact that will have on them and their loved ones. So, making it clear what could happen. In some ways, we need to make this a bit like the perception of risk in terms of asbestos, which everyone knows is really serious and could kill you.
We really need to put construction dust on that same standing. And the workers on the ground actually appreciating why they're wearing this equipment and it is for, the good of their health at the end of the day.
Mick Ord (Host): Yeah, you don't need to be able to see the dust particles to breathe them in, do you? I mean, I learned from the HSE websites, many are a hundred times smaller than a grain of sand, aren't they, Duncan?
Duncan Smith: Yes, that's right Mick. It is cloud being generated, but it's usually the dust that we can't see that's going to do us the most harm in terms of getting down into the deep lung.
Mick Ord (Host): Duncan, as a final call to action for employees and employees, what would you prioritise for both?
Duncan Smith: You know, we really can't be complacent. We've got to act Now, don't assume it won't happen to you. And construction dust isn't just any old dust. There's some, uh, potentially real nasty substances, hazards to health within that which can cause life-shortening, or it can certainly aggravate existing conditions and it can even lead to death.
So, you know, we really must all play our part. Employers do have a look at the HSE Work Right website, the Dust Kills campaign, promotional material has some really good, uh, information on what you need to do. And employees, some of that I is going to be an absolutely right for you to look at as well, so that you know what controls to expect at the workplaces where you work and, uh, you know, raise concerns with your foreman, with your employer.
And, uh, if need be, you can even raise concerns with the health and safety executive regarding the work sites that you are working on. Jobs should be properly planned and properly controlled so that nobody is repeatedly, uh, exposed to high levels of construction dust. You know, the world has, uh, has moved on from where we were several decades ago and you know, it’s absolutely right that we focus on reducing risk in terms of construction dust and making sure everybody goes home safely and, uh, I would urge everyone l, all the listeners, to have look at, ‘Doug's story’ as part of the campaign. He is a retired construction worker suffering from COPD. It’s a very hard-hitting interview where Doug shows the devastating impact of the disease. Do have a look, do watch that, and think about the task you undertake on-site and ensure your health is being protected.
Mick Ord (Host): Excellent. Thanks for that. Have you got anything you want to add to that, Abigail?
Abigail Bainbridge: Just to fully agree with supporting the Dust Kills campaign.
So, myself and my home builders peers, you know, we really need to get this message out to everyone, not just tackling the large principal contractors, because it's not just the workers for large principal contractors that can be affected by this.
Mick Ord (Host): A big thank you to Duncan Smith from HSE and Abigail Bainbridge from Persimmon.
Log on to HSE’s WorkRight Campaign website to view the dust kills pages and resources, and you'll find all the information and advice you need at your fingertips.
So, until next time, for me, Mick Ord, and the team, have a healthy and safe summer.
Thursday Apr 20, 2023
Thursday Apr 20, 2023
Thursday Apr 20, 2023
In this podcast, we discuss HSE’s simple principles and guidance to support disabled workers and workers with long term health conditions in the workplace.
Moya Woolley, Occupational Health Policy Team Leader at HSE and Rebecca Hyrslova, Policy Advisor at Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) discuss the guidance and Talking Toolkit to help businesses create an inclusive approach to workplace health.
For more information on the campaign visit Work Right for everyone - Work Right to keep Britain safe
HiEB Podcast: Disability in the Workplace Transcript
Mick Ord (Host):
A warm welcome to you wherever and whenever you are listening to this HSE podcast on disability in the workplace. My name's Mick Ord, and over the next 30 minutes or so, we'll be looking into how businesses can support their disabled staff. And along the way, dispel some of the myths and assumptions that are knocking around about the rights of people with disabilities at work, including those with long-term health conditions.
According to the Federation of Small Businesses, 25% of company owners are either disabled or have a health condition. And given that there are 5.5 million small businesses in the UK, that percentage amounts to more than 1.3 million disabled-owned companies. That's before you even begin to count the number of disabled people in work.
In 2022, there were 4.5 million disabled people in employment according to the Department of Work and Pensions. And yet there is still a perception among many people with disabilities that companies could still do more to understand and support them in the workplace, even though they've undoubtedly been great strides over the past 20 or 30 years.
Last November, HSE published a new guidance for businesses, which they called the Talking Toolkit. It's a really practical guide, which stresses the importance of making sure workplaces are accessible for disabled people and that staff communication is clear and inclusive with the appropriate occupational health support available.
Moya Woolley is Occupational Health Policy Team Leader at HSE, and one of her priorities is to manage the delivery of this new guidance to benefit workers and managers. Moya, welcome to the podcast.
Mick Ord (Host):
Nice to see you.
Rebecca Hyrslova is a policy advisor at the Federation of Small Businesses and is the FSBs lead on their disability and health policy portfolio.
Last year, the FSB published a report Business Without Barriers, identifying the issues which affect business owners and highlighting what actions we can take to make our businesses successful for everyone involved, Rebecca, thanks for joining us in the podcast.
Hi, Mick, great to be here today.
Mick Ord (Host):
Now, Moya, if, if I can start with you, why did HSE feel it necessary to produce the toolkit in the first place?
Great question. So, the guidance we developed was in response to a government consultation that is called Health is Everyone's Business. And it also fits really nicely with HSE'S 10-year strategy to reduce work-related ill health. The Government's response to the Health is Everyone's Business consultation, which we also call HiEB, was published in July 2021. And set out some of the measures that government will take to protect and maintain progress made to reduce ill health related job loss and provide better workplace support for disabled people and those with long-term health conditions.
The measures that government have taken forward include providing greater clarity around employer and employee rights and responsibilities. Addressing the need for employers to have access to clear and compelling information and advice that is easy to understand and is trustworthy and accessible. And also to encourage more employers to provide access to expert support services such as occupational health.
At HSE, we know it's not always easy to recruit people that you need to help your business thrive, which is why it's so important to keep and develop talent in your business. And as part of that, we developed this in non-statutory guidance. It strengthens existing guidance and provides seven clear and simple principles that employees are expected to apply to support safer people and those with long-term health conditions in the work environment.
The seven principles guide you through how best to create a supportive workplace and focus on the key elements to do this, including how you can develop your worker skills and communicate in an accessible manner. Our HSE guidance is just part of government's response. Our colleagues in DWP and Department of Health and Social Care Joint Work and Health Unit have designed a new digital information advice service to help employers and small and medium sized enterprises to support and manage disability and health conditions at work.
This is a dynamic service, which provides a tailored journey for employer users and provides a high-level overview of information and signposting onto trusted resources for service support, such as HSE's new principles, and Talking Toolkits. The new digital service from the joint unit and HSE's non-statutory principle-based guidance are designed to work together and feel seamless. They provide additional support to employers on managing health at work with different formats available to be accessible for all employers, irrespective of size or digital capacity.
Mick Ord (Host):
Now, is it fair to say that the toolkit is designed to ensure that more disabled people gain employment and set up their own businesses and also that those in employment are retained in the workplace and don't leave because they may not be getting enough support at work?
Yep. I think that's fair to say. At HSE, we considered a range of ways that you as an employer can support a disabled worker or a worker with a long-term health condition in the workplace. It's hoped the guidance may help prevent disabled workers or those with long-term health conditions falling out of work. It will help workers feel supported, valued and hopefully lead to happier, more productive work environments. The guidance may also help businesses retain key talent, which can save the resource and expense of recruiting. Advertising, interviewing, onboarding, and training new staff cost businesses significant amounts of money that can be saved if businesses can support their workers adequately and help them thrive and remain in roles.
We base the seven principles of a non-statutory guidance on the Prevent, Promote, Support model, which aims to protect people in work and keep them healthy and productive. Promote to build their knowledge and understanding and transparency within workplaces, considering the health of the workforce and how that interacts with work and to support to help people get back into work and remain in work.
We also develop the principles with disability charities, unions and business representatives in a task and finish group. So, we know that the principles work to those we want to apply them. The principles represent best practice and go beyond what the law requires, though following them will help you develop a supportive enabling workplace culture. And many of the principles require only small changes to be made, which can have a huge impact on an individual's experience at work.
Mick Ord (Host):
Now Rebecca, I mentioned the FSB report, which was published last year: Business Without Barriers. What would you say are the main barriers to more employment of disabled people, either running their own businesses or as employees?
Thanks Mick. Also, thanks to Moya. It was great to hear a little bit of the HSE's perspective on the toolkits that we also were a part of creating. To answer your question, Mick, you ask about disabled employees and disabled business owners, and I think there's a great overlap in the barriers that they experience, perhaps from slightly different angles.
So, in our report, Business Without Barriers that you mentioned, we found that 52% of disabled entrepreneurs have experienced some form of barrier due to their disability or health condition, and the three that were most commonly cited: 34% said that they were unable to commit consistent hours or meet very short deadlines. Then we had 15% of disabled entrepreneurs struggling to get or apply for even financial support. And then 11% cited access to equipment as a barrier. There were some other issues often around business support and accessible training. Now, I appreciate that it's not going to be every disabled employee's everyday battle to apply for finance, but that sort of issue around very strict deadlines or perhaps, you know, written applications, a strict format that may not suit them. That can be said for disabled employees as well.
So, the barriers are around perhaps flexibility, whether that is to do with work pattern or even the format of the actual job that they have to carry out or even the application process. So that's the sort of retention and recruitment issue. I actually spoke to one of our members who is a disabled business owner and because of his disability, he has this key focus in his work to get more disabled people in the workforce.
He told me a little bit about how he tries to tackle these barriers that he had to overcome himself to enter into the workforce, but also to get more people into his business. And he talked about how he recently hired a web developer, and it was through a standard hiring process, and the employee did not disclose any disability at that point.
So, it wasn't until he was sort of well into his job that it became obvious that he's not really great when it comes to long conversations. So long meetings, generally group conversations, and also client interaction, direct client interaction. So, because he's aware just how important open communication is, he made sure that that's established in his business.
And through that discourse, he basically found out that indeed this employee had Asperger's. And they kind of spoke about the ways to help him feel better at work because there is this human angle on managing sickness absence, and then there's the productivity angle for the business as well. So, they had a discussion. They decided that this particular employee didn't have to attend group meetings. Instead, he had a transcript afterwards that he could read through, that any sort of communication was not done through ad hoc calls on Skype, but instead was written communication. And these little tweaks translated into greater productivity of the employee, greater happiness at work for him, because he wasn't put on the spot in a way that maybe felt uncomfortable for him. And you know, these adjustments were really at no impact to the business. I mean financially, even performance wise, because the employee in this particular scenario was a web developer, so a lot of his work was done online. So yeah, it's just a great example to show that these barriers that we found were the most common, both for entrepreneurs and employees about accessibility and formats and deadlines, et cetera, are relatively easy and not often costly to overcome.
Obviously, there is some more costly adjustments, but for that, there's government support schemes that employers can apply for to help facilitate that, which is very well addressed in the HSE guidance as well.
Mick Ord (Host):
And I think it's probably the first initial conversation that is most difficult, isn't it? Do you think Rebecca, I've been in similar situations myself, and you're thinking, how do I tackle this?
But in the right end environment, once it's out there and everybody knows about somebody's disability and that, it's a lot easier than you might imagine, isn't it?
Absolutely, and you're right in saying it's probably the first initial conversation, and I think that with small businesses, but it will be businesses generally speaking, you may not know what's appropriate for you to ask. Of course, you want to ask because it's your duty to make sure that a workplace is safe for an employee. But you also don't want to overstep the mark, and this is where the Talking Toolkit is particularly useful because you get direction in what questions can help you get to that desired outcome, which is to be aware of what's happening to your employees and how to facilitate a safe, healthy environment for them, but equally not perhaps overstep a boundary that may not be clear in terms of just how much your employee also wants to tell you. So, there's definitely. The perfect space for something like talking to toolkits or generally the guidance to, to come into play.
Mick Ord (Host):
Moya, do you want to give us an example of what that first conversation or really maybe the preparation for that conversation might be? If someone needs an issue to be addressed at their work but is not quite sure how to go about it.
Yeah, I just want to say that Rebecca is spot on that conversation and that early conversation is exactly what those Talking Toolkits are there to enable. It's one of the things that came out of our user research that knowing what to ask and when to ask it could be a real barrier to kind of making changes that'll help an employee stay in work.
So yeah, in response to what you were saying, yeah, we've created seven Talking Toolkits that each fit round a different principle. Which each start a different conversation or can help start a different conversation that you can have with your employee. They're also quite a useful tool as well for the employee.
If you are trying to work out how to have that conversation with your employer, that Talking Toolkit can give you kind of the questions or some of the things you can start thinking about sharing and also give you a structure for it. So, I said there's seven of them. There's one around creating a supportive workplace, taking an inclusive approach, understanding barriers in work, making suitable, adjustments, developing skills and knowledge, using effective and accessible communication, as well as supporting sickness, absence of return to work. So, you can, depending on your employee, you can use one when you need it. You could rotate them around as part of regular check-ins. So, they're kind of, they're standalone, but they also work together and then you can print them out and also write on them. So, if you are trying to work in a place where you don't have digital capacity, you can take them and have a chat with your worker like that. So yeah, as I say there's seven of them and they're all just, they’re quite nice ways to start a conversation.
And one of the most important things about using them is obviously to listen. There's no point having a conversation with your employee if you're not listening, you're not thinking, you're not thinking how to support it. And then they also help you do that by asking you what you've agreed and what points you're going to take forward.
Mick Ord (Host):
I think I'm right in saying there's still a misconception among some non-disabled employers that once they think about access to work or adjusting at work, it's going to cost them a fortune. And that's really not the case, is it?
Really not the case. Adjustments can help remove barriers that are physical, organisational barriers and attitude or social barriers. But the adjustments you can make are as simple as alternative work patterns. So, for example, you might have an employee who's experiencing symptoms of menopause and struggles to sleep well. They can ask to start later in the day, so they get some rest. It can be as simple as assistive software, so screen readers or using the captioning service on an online meeting platform. It could be allowing a phased return to work or using, as Rebecca's outlined, different communication formats to fit the person.
And all of those kind of things are quite simple and they don't take a lot of time or money to implement. It's just knowing what works for individual. For example, one of the things we found in our user research was a worker in a tech firm who was suffering from anxiety, and he found it difficult to predict when he would feel anxious, and he felt particularly anxious on public transport. So, the tech firm he was working for decided to try and create a more supportive workplace environment for them, and therefore, the worker felt more confident in approaching the management to talk about his condition. So, the company made some adjustments. The worker was allowed to work from home a bit more, and the number of meetings he had to attend in person was reduced. And when he did have to come to in-person meetings, the company paid for a taxi rather than the worker having to use public transport, which heightened their anxiety. And the benefits. Were quite significant for the company. The cost of taxis was met by the trade-off against not having to pay for office space for this person, and the worker also gets a grant for the transport through the access to work scheme. And the worker, since those adjustments were made, was more productive.
So small changes can have big impacts, and you get to retain that talent that is very difficult to replace and replicate, and you get to help create this supportive environment that not only helps that one person but helps that culture across the business. And help people see that you are a business that wants to help people. And you know, people feel happier in their workplace.
Mick Ord (Host):
Sure. Rebecca, in the FSB report, you say that 34% of small business owners say their mental health declined over the course of the pandemic. Can you give us a few real life or maybe typical examples of how this manifested itself?
Yeah, I mean, I think generally speaking, the pandemic highlighted the importance of prioritising mental health, and it's not exactly a new argument that there is a link between workplace and mental health, but often the discussion focuses around employees and generally what employers can do to help their employees' mental health. In regard to work.
we've kind of seen there is a bit of a gap in addressing actual mental health of employers as well, because I mean, it comes as no surprise that it's quite stressful to run a business. And especially when in a way you are responsible for your employee's mental health as well. So, what we looked at is obviously you have the closures, restrictions, lockdowns, all that kind of stuff, of course would be very detrimental to one's mental health if their business is at stake. But there were some sort of other key issues where employers found that their mental health was deteriorating in Covid. You said it was 34%, and you're right, we found that a third of small business owners said that their mental health declined. But interestingly, that actually was two thirds, so 66% in those who had a mental health illness.
So, you're already looking at, you know, mental health deteriorating generally, but for people that have already had a mental health illness, it's 66%. So quite a high number there. What we found is that 28% of small business owners said that it was managing their staff that had an impact on them because of course everyone was struggling at that time, so you kind of absorbed that as well. But perhaps, interestingly, 23%. So, a relatively similar amount of business owners said it was late payments that caused that decline in mental health for them. So that's quite a specific issue. One that was probably even worse in the pandemic and of course relates to everything. It relates to cash flow. It can have immediate impact, it can have long-term impact on how the business can grow, et cetera. So, it was quite a big issue on a number of different scales and timelines, and it's an ongoing issue actually. It's, it's one of our constant policy focuses, and just a couple weeks ago we've actually released a report on late payments called Time Is Money. So definitely something that we continue to look at, but that was perhaps an interesting takeaway that late payments was the second biggest contributor after managing and looking after their staff mental wellbeing as well.
Mick Ord (Host):
Interesting, yeah. Moya, an estimated 149.3 million working days were lost because of sickness or injury in 2021 in the UK – equivalent to 4.6 days per worker. Cutting this number will help to grow productivity in the UK, won't it? And presumably you’re hoping that your guidance will help contribute to this.
Yeah, absolutely. Just to touch on what Rebecca was talking about, stress, anxiety, and depression are the number one reasons for work related illness in the UK and it's on the rise. So, if you want to look at some, some resources that can help support your staff. The HSE runs a Working Minds campaign, which can talk you through what you can do and help support your staff with their suffering from work related stress.
So yes, we know that employers who invest in health and wellbeing of their workforce benefit from sickness absence, have increased productivity and improved workplace retention. And we also know that early intervention around workplace triggers for ill health reduces the risk of someone eventually stopping work altogether, and the risk of someone stopping work altogether increases the longer the worker has been off sick. So, the issues we've helped try to address with the Talking Toolkits, and the Talking Toolkits also offer a consistent approach. We know that there is significant variation on how employees manage work and health. So, the guidance does provide some advice on how to make contact during sickness absence, as well as the support you could offer. And the guidance also contains an illustrative example on what you can do, so you can help visualise how you can go through the process in your own situation through that illustrative example.
Mick Ord (Host):
Rebecca, what's your take on sickness absences?
Thank you, Mick. I think that's really interesting what Moya was saying because I mean, sickness absence as we found costs 5 billion pounds annually to small businesses. Now, sickness absence is more than just statuary sick pay. It's also the cost of other staff pay, whether it's overtime or getting someone in part-time to cover long-term absences. It's also potential loss of business. If you have a very small business with only a couple of employees, long-term sickness absence can mean that they have to close down for a couple of days, for example. So, sickness absence is a massive issue, especially for small businesses. We have campaigned for a while now to basically extend the rebate that was introduced in Covid, so government covering sickness absence because that would hugely help small business employers as well. And I think, you know, we discuss sickness absence in terms of, it's not great for the business obviously, but it's also not great for the people. We currently experience a very tight labour market. We know that there is a great amount of people that are out of work or economically inactive because of ill health. There's this issue of retention, recruitment. We know that we need to help disabled people or people with long-term health issues to get into work. So we need to facilitate appropriate workplaces for them, but we also need to be able to help them stay at work because at FSB we run a quarterly confidence survey, and one of the questions talks about growth aspirations and on average in 2022, I think it was 30% of all small business owners said that access to appropriately skilled staff is one of the main barriers to growth. So, they're having issues accessing staff, which is not surprising because there's this great pool of economically inactive people often due to ill health, so we need to help them get back in, but then also help them stay at work.
Generally speaking, the cost of replacing an employee is something like 69 months of their salary when you talk about, you know, training expenses and salary, et cetera. So cost-wise, it's efficient to help them stay at work. If you're currently struggling to access people, there's not enough people in the workforce. Equally, it's in your best interest to facilitate them to be happy and healthy at work. So yeah, sickness is a big one for small businesses.
Mick Ord (Host):
There's a huge untapped wealth of talent there, isn't there? If businesses play it right, they can tap into and really get the business firing, can't they? As you say, finding talented people, especially at the moment is difficult, isn't it?
Absolutely. As I said, recruitment is one of the key barriers for small businesses and, has been for the past year. I think there's a caveat to that as well, so I can see how perhaps for some people with health conditions, disabled people, or perhaps generally, it may be difficult to find suitable employment, whether it's to the degree of flexibility they require, or for whatever reason it may be difficult. And that is the reason why they remain economically inactive.
And this is where I think is a bit of a gap, a space that we should fill. Mainstream discourse about disabled entrepreneurship. I think it's very important that self-employment is discussed as a mainstream Bible option for disabled people to enter into the workforce because it does provide that flexibility.
You can find what you perhaps are seeking in employment, but. Can't find a suitable option for yourself, you can create that for yourself. And we have actually found that more disabled people are likely to go into self-employment. And I think for the government it should also be an area of interest because of course, a lot of their recent announcements have centred around participation.
And because we know that there's a great pool of disabled people that perhaps are staying away from employment for that reason. Yet a lot of the interventions are focusing on employees, and there's a slight lack in incentive, but also facilitating self-employment for potential new disabled entrepreneurs.
Mick Ord (Host):
Moya, do you want to add to that?
Moya Woolley: Yeah. Thanks Mick, and thanks, Rebecca. I was just going to add that it's important also to think about it from a worker point of view. There's really clear evidence that good work improves health in an individual and their wellbeing too, and it can help prevent social exclusion. So, there's benefits for everyone involved in that kind of circle of work and employment. If you can keep people in good quality work for as long as possible.
Mick Ord (Host):
Is the greater incidence of home working and hybrid working, creating a more inclusive culture, do you think?
The impact of home working has, I think, allowed businesses to see that the flexibility can be done and can be done well, and allow those people who benefit from it to benefit from it. Obviously for some people that's not the approach they want and in some businesses it won't work. But as we've spoke about before in some of the examples, allowing people to work at home can enable them to feel more comfortable in their work and allow them those breaks from social anxiety or interaction they find difficult and can make it a more comfortable environment and I feel like an easy environment for them to work in.
I would absolutely agree with what Moya said, and perhaps add that whilst it's fantastic that some degree of flexibility is now significantly more mainstream than it was, which is great for people that require it, but also, it's much easier to ask. But I would say then again, this is where this guidance and this Talking Toolkit is incredibly important because when you are not physically present, whether it's with your manager or with a group of people you work with, that's when you need to communicate. It's great to be flexible in terms of where people can work from, but it means that you may not have that immediate interaction, which as we know, close-knit groups foster an open dialogue, a great communication. So, you need to, again, ensure that there is this rapport being built, that this communication is being fostered, so that if perhaps that doesn't suit some people, they can say that. So, yeah, I think great to see that flexibility being mainstream, but we also then need to really focus on still having these open, honest communications.
I think Rebecca's absolutely right these toolkits could help you have those water cooler conversations that you might have in an office, but you can do it digitally as well, because if you're not bumping into someone, you can miss those social things that you think, oh, I should ask my employee about something. These toolkits can help facilitate that, even if you are having that conversation at a distance.
Mick Ord (Host):
Well, many, many thanks to Moya Woolley from HSE and the FSB's Rebecca Hyrslova, for joining us today. Some really good support available there, and it's all on the websites.
And if you want to use the HSE Talking Toolkit we've been referring to in the podcast, then all you need to do is go onto the HSE website. That's HSE.gov.uk. and write 'Talking Toolkit disability' in the search box and the link will pop up. You can download the PDF and print it if you wish. We'll leave the links to that and to the Federation of Small Businesses Report: Business Without Barriers in the episode notes, too.
That's all from me, Mick Ord. Until next. Thanks for listening to the podcast and I hope you found it useful. There's plenty of information and support out there whether you are a business owner with a disability or a worker.
Bye for now.
Wednesday Apr 05, 2023
Wednesday Apr 05, 2023
Wednesday Apr 05, 2023
In this podcast, we discuss HSE’s agriculture campaign Your Farm Your Future, focusing on the risks of transport on farms with moving vehicles being are the highest cause of deaths in British farming.
Adrian Hodkinson, Agriculture Sector Lead, at HSE and Brian Rees, Farmer and Safety Trainer discuss some of the most common issues and what farmers can do to make small changes to protect them, their families and workers.
For more information on the campaign visit Work Right Agriculture - Work Right to keep Britain safe
Mick Ord (Host): If I were to ask you which sector of British industry was responsible for the highest rate of deaths and injuries per 100,000 workers, what would your answer? May the construction sector? No, it's the agriculture sector. My name's Mick Ord, and I'm here today on this HSE podcast to introduce you to some guest experts on the subject of safety in the agriculture sector.
HSE has just launched its Work Right Agriculture campaign to encourage everyone who works on the farm to take a little time out and think about how they could improve safety. My word is it needed. Over the past five years, there have been 161 fatal incidents on our farms and 11,000, yes, 11,000 injuries each year. We want to make 2023 a much safer year on our farms, and you can play your part by really engaging with the campaign, looking closely at the way in which you work, and thinking about how you can make it safer for everyone. Joining me today are two people who'll be able to help you to do that.
Adrian Hodgkinson is the head of HSE'S Agriculture sector and a Principal Inspector. He has many years’ experience and works with all the main agricultural organisations to improve the lives of everyone on farming. Adrian, welcome to the podcast.
Adrian Hodkinson: Good afternoon, Mick. Really good to be speaking with you.
Mick Ord (Host): And Brian Rees is a farmer in mid Wales and has been a safety instructor for nearly 40 years. Brian keeps sheep and hens on his farm and is involved in the Wales Farm Safety Partnership. Hi Brian.
Brian Rees: Hello. Nice to be here.
Mick Ord (Host): Adrian, can I start with you? Can we get down to the specifics straightaway? HSE has launched the Work Right Agriculture campaign to try to get those worrying stats down.
Do you know what the main causes appear to be?
Adrian Hodkinson: In agriculture workplace transport and moving vehicles are the biggest cause of fatal accidents in farming, people being killed in farming. And they account for a huge amount of the major injuries that we also see.
Mick Ord (Host): As you say, you've split the campaign into three main sections. Talk to us, if you will, about the first bit: Safe Farms. What areas are you targeting here?
Adrian Hodkinson: When we are talking about safe vehicle movements, we're talking about three things, really. It's the Safe Farm, having a Safe Environment, having a Safe Driver, and also a Safe Vehicle. So, in relation to having a safe farm, it's really about the layout of the farm, thinking about how you're segregating people from machinery.
Really, really crucial to keep people – pedestrians – away from moving machines. It's a good idea to maybe have a marked route where you've got frequent crossings across a yard, put up barriers or posts when you're opening a barn door and walking out into the yard just to make you stop and think and look around for vehicles, putting up signs, warning people that this is where people are going to be walking.
Having mirrors on the corners of building so you can see round and see what's coming. Maybe improving the lighting. Lighting's got a lot better nowadays with LED and all the rest of it, and you can really improve the lighting really effectively on farms and, um, making sure people are visible. At night, or when it's getting dusky, make sure you're wearing that high visibility clothing so you can be seen by drivers coming onto the farm or into the farm yard.
Mick Ord (Host): And that's true in the mornings as well. A lot of farmers starting very early , and it's quite often very dark in the mornings. It still is now, isn't it?
Adrian Hodkinson: Absolutely, Mick. Yeah. Well, when I say the evenings, I mean anytime when it's getting dusky and dark or just starting to be light in the mornings. So important to have good lighting, um, and make sure people can be seen.
Mick Ord (Host): Now you mentioned signage there and that's one of the things when I've been on farms, sometimes something will just appear around the corner, won't it? You know? So, I guess you would say the more signage, the better?
Adrian Hodkinson: Well, you don't want to go overboard, but having signs up just before, before you're approaching a busy area where people might be near the farmhouse or where children might be present, just to slow the driver down and think about what might be just around that corner, just putting up where it's needed. It really makes a difference.
Mick Ord (Host): Now, as a Principal Inspector, you've obviously visited farms of all sizes over the years. Generally, what would you say is the standard, like in terms of safe farms?
Adrian Hodkinson: Well, all farms are different. They do a fantastic job bringing in the food this country needs. We see a wide variety of different standards, so we, we see the huge farms that are really big commercial enterprises, and you get really good traffic arrangements in those sorts of places.
And then you get the smaller farm might be one man and his wife and small family running a smaller farm. And the standards can be equally as good, but they're much simpler usually. But it's so important to make sure that when people are coming on with deliveries, when vehicles are moving around in a hurry, at silaging time or at harvest time, that um, people are kept away from all that moving activity.
Mick Ord (Host): And you've got lots of walkers and hikers, haven't you? Everywhere. And it's quite easy, and I've done it myself to wander onto a bit of land that's private land, not knowing it necessarily, and all of a sudden you're on a private farm.
Adrian Hodkinson: Yeah, and we're coming up to Easter holidays, so it's a really good point, Mick. We're coming up to Easter holidays. There'll be a lot more people out enjoying the, the great British countryside. There will be more people around. Um, some parts of the country are much busier than others. If you're in the Peak District or in South Wales, uh, in the Brecon Beacons or wherever it might be, there's going to be lots and lots of people around at that time of year. So, looking after members of the public and keeping them away from moving vehicles is a really, really good point.
Mick Ord (Host): Now, Brian Rees, as I mentioned before, in addition to running your own farm and being a safety inspector for 40 years or so, you're also involved in the Wales Farms Safety Partnership. Have you got a real life example from one of the farms that you visited where there's been an accident as a result of poor safety procedure?
Brian Rees: I could keep you going for two hours on these. Yeah, it's amazing. You may go into a farm to do some training and you, if it's a lift truck course, you're usually there a couple of days and some take it very seriously and some almost consider it, you know, proud of it. I know one friend of mine, a family who know very well, the son rolled a quad on an open hill and it rolled for about 150 meters and smashed up down by the side of the main road. That really sort of, uh, gets to me a little bit, a lot of accidents on farms and there's a variety of reasons really. Farmers are rushing around. When a farmer needs something that needs doing, they only have one thing on their mind, and that's to get that job done and they don't necessarily think of what's happening around them.
A very good friend of mine, two years to now, he was calving. And one morning he went into his shed, the cow had calved, and there she was in the pen. They were lambing as well. So, they were busy doing other things. He went back by this cow in about an hour's time. The calf was looking a little bit hollow and he thought it hadn't sucked.
So he gets his wife when they get a jug of water, and you know when a calf hasn't sucked you have to put a tube down his throat into his stomach to get him going. So, he went into the cow, and she was fine. He actually milked about a couple of litres of colostrum off the cow, and he just turned his back on the cow and he caught hold of the calf and he was just opening his mouth, and the calf makes a little, "urrrghh" sort of sound and this cow just went berserk! Now his wife was facing the cow. She could see what happened. So, she tried to throw the jug of milk that she was holding at the cow, and she managed to escape. But Rob got really, she really mangled him. Now then, he's still alive, and I keep telling him regularly, he's very lucky to be alive. The son appeared from somewhere fairly quickly and he's a fairly big lad, and he literally manhandled this cow off him. It was amazing. Now, Rob used to be six foot two, he's now six foot and half an inch, because it smashed one complete vertebrae out of his back and they pinned him all back together. He's okay. But uh, you speak to him on a cold morning and he can hardly move, you know.
And that's just an example where it could have been cured so simply, you know, We actually filmed Rob on the farm and although his system was in place really, he had really quite good calving pens, the secret is you never get between the calf and the cow. Whatever you're doing, you've got to always be behind the barrier. Little things like that. But all that was on Rob's mind at that time, was getting milk into that cow's belly. Everything else goes out the window, and I think that happens with a lot of farm accidents.
Another one not far from here in North Wales, where a chap pulled a tractor on a steep slope. Top quality farmer, you know, involved in the Royal Welsh Show and amazing bloke. But I know, I can just imagine all he would have in mind was putting fertiliser down on a steep slope. He wouldn't have thought it necessary perhaps to put his twin wheels on the tractor. He may not have thought to check the tire pressures. He may not have thought to put his seatbelt on, and if he'd done any of those three things, he'd probably still be alive.
And that's the problem we have. Just making people stop for a few minutes and just think about what they're doing.
Mick Ord (Host): And of course, if somebody has been working in the industry for many years, and this is true of any industry really, isn't it? Uh, Adrian, it sounds arrogant. It's not meant to me, but you think you know it all, don't you?
Adrian Hodkinson: You get a bit complacent, don't you? You've been doing the same thing day in, day out. You've always done it that way. It's always worked out for you, but it doesn't necessarily mean it's the right way of doing things. And what we're finding is certainly with vehicles and drivers, if you're not doing things routinely correctly, you're going to get caught out. Something's going to go wrong. 60% of all the run over accidents on farms where you get run over, 60% of those could have been stopped by either the handbrake being on or the handbrake working. So many times, the handbrake just doesn't get maintained and doesn't actually work.
One example I can think of is that a guy was unhitching an implement off the back of the tractor. The handbrake didn't work, it wasn't maintained as he was trying to undo the various bits and pieces at the back on the linkages, the tractor just slowly started moving towards him. He, he didn't know, he had no idea this was happening. Ian, most careful person going thinking, "oh, I'm okay.". Just squashed between the machine and the implement, and it's just a slow, creeping, silent way of dying. Is horrible. Really, really awful way. And that could be prevented so easily by maintaining the handbrake and putting the handbrake on. I'm sure Brian's got similar stories like that.
Brian Rees: Yeah, yeah. He knows. It's so simple. So simple. Back to your point of saying that farmers think they know it all and we are a little bit, we are jack of all trades, aren't we?
Some people would say you're jack of all trades and master of none. But I wouldn't go quite that far. But we do tend to think, and you have, people that may have been driving tractors for 30 years, no problem. Then they go out and buy a really nice posh telehandler. Oh, this is a nice type. Oh, similar to a tractor or, but they don't realise it's an entirely different piece of equipment.
A few years ago, HSE did some visits through mid Wales and naturally they were going on to farms. And these are the sort of people I'm thinking about. People in their forties, fifties, sixties, probably never done the days training in their life. They'd been brought up on the farm and kept their skills going.
They got improvement notices then, for training. And I went along to this one farm. There was this chap and these two neighbours had come in for two days to do the course. And the first thing I do, especially with people like that, the first person on the machine at the start of a course is always me. I always demonstrate what I want to see.
Gives me a bit of cred because farmers are used to people coming onto their farms, telling them how to do their job when they've never done it themselves. So, the first thing I do is give a little 10-minute demonstration. And this one chap , he's had a telehandler for 20 years, and I got off after my demo and he said "how did you see to get those forks in the pallet?"
And I said, well, you lined the pallets up and then you line them up and drive in. He said, "I've never been able to do that. I've always got to ask the lottery driver to guide me in." And anyway, in the conversation it came out that he didn't know that the telehandler had a self-levelling device on the forks. Basic stuff like that. Well, that's the first thing I do. Within half an hour I had him driving in the pallets on the lorry and it made his two days. You know, we think we can do everything, but little simple things like that. That could cause an accident. There was about 12 people altogether. I did over about eight days, and four of them actually rang the training provider up a few days after and said, "I like this training job. What else can we do?" And one group of them did a quad, then the following week. Quad training. They weren't asked to do that, but they'd never experienced training, you know, and when we compare us with other industries, say construction, they are training for everything really. You could dream of. And what is it? Adrian will know the figures better than me, but they kill something like 1.5 or 1.3 per hundred thousand, and we kill something like eight or nine per hundred thousand. So that's where the figure comes. You're seven times more likely to be killed on a farm than you are on a building site.
Mick Ord (Host): Scary stuff. Brian.
Safe driver. That's the second bit of the HSE campaign. And that's your particular area? That's your specialty. You've mentioned handbrakes. What other stuff are high on your list?
Brian Rees: Well, yeah, the big thing is, training is a biggie and they say, well, you would say that because that's what you do. But I am so convinced that training and the safe stop whenever you stop the machine, as Adrian said, the machine has got to be maintained properly.
But it's handbrake on, out of gear, key off, and out. If you look at people whenever you pull up in your car, you do safe stop religiously every time because the large majority of people were trained to drive a car when they were 17, and it's always stayed with them. But for some strange reason, when those very same people get out of their car and sit on a tractor or combine, whatever it might be, or telehandler, that safe stop goes out of the window. And I don't know why.
And training is a really big one for that, to make them safe. If the machine isn't moving, it's not going to crash anybody and putting everything in neutral. No one's ever been injured in a PTO shaft when the tractor engine is stopped. It's never happened. So if, if you're doing anything to a machine, that engine has got to be stopped before you go anywhere near the machine.
Mick Ord (Host): Adrian, this campaign, we're particularly aiming at younger farmers and farm workers, aren't we, from the age of 18 to say 44. Why are you particularly concerned about people that age or people that might be new to farming?
Adrian Hodkinson: Well, we're concerned about everybody who's, uh, working on farmers and we, we really want to work with all the different stakeholders to make sure that we're helping people live long and healthy lives.
This campaign has really been quite orientated towards social media and towards some of the, um, electronic means of communication. So we've been sending out , a lot of messages and a lot of information and films and things like that, which we know younger farmers will pick upon, perhaps more than the older farmers.
Older farmers are still really, really important. In fact, a huge amount of older farmers suffer awful injuries and are killed. But if we get people younger, as Brian says, if we're educating people and training people earlier, the messages tend to stick a little bit more.
It's a bit like, um, young children and, and grandparents. If you can get the younger people talking to the, the grandfather or the grandmother about, why are you doing it like that? I have not seen it being done like that for years. It gets, granddad gets granny thinking about it and maybe changing their ways if the younger person is saying it.
The campaigns for everyone. We're concentrating on safe farm, safe drivers, safe vehicle. It's just that we're using social media and electronic means of communication and we just know that younger people are more likely to see that. Simple as that.
Mick Ord (Host): Brian, from your experience, would you be able to sort of explain a differentiation between the various age groups? Because as Adrian has said, we are targeting younger and newer additions to the farming industry, as well as older. It's everybody. And you mentioned before how in some of the farms that you visit, the culture of safety isn't quite ingrained.
Brian Rees: No, it's the culture that we want to try and instil into the, the movement a bit.
You know, I've got two sons. One has basically worked most of his life in construction, and my other younger son is basically farming. Both went to college, but my eldest son in construction, he wouldn't ever dream of jumping out of a machine forwards. He always uses handles. And I think that's one thing where agricultural lack a little bit and where say, construction are safer, they do get supervised more. And there's someone keeping an eye on them. For instance, now in construction, you know, it's now the green light on the top of all their machines. And um, I passed , a site the other day and I could only see about half the green lights on. So it meant half those people didn't have their seatbelt on because that's what the green light tells you.
Well, a farmer wouldn't dream of thinking about anything like that and very often the telehandler they buy wouldn't be up to construction specs or they probably didn't have a green light. So, it's that type of thing. What we want to instil in people, this training element.
I was in America about three years ago, touring round California. We were looking at farms and different things, and we went to Sacramento and we had an hour with the, the local environmental minister. I mentioned safety to her and she said, "oh, it's not a problem here." and when I told her our figure, she couldn't believe it .Anyway during the week then we went to a few farms and the standard was really good. Anyway, I asked one of the farmers one day, what training do you do? He said, oh, they've all got their tickets in their machine, he said, but every month everybody on the farm has a one day health and safety course. One week, it may be machinery. The next month it may be CAT handling, the next month it may be medicine, so on and so on. And he said they have a touchscreen test at the end of each course and they've got to pass that before they can go back to work. And I said, God, that's amazing. He said, well, we wouldn't be able to insure the farm if we didn't do that in this state. It happens in this country with factories because uh, back in the nineties I was in factories more than I was on farms and they were doing it then because they could do their training and they could get half my feedback off the insurance company on the employee liability insurance. But I'm afraid that the agricultural insurers in this country don't want to know. I've been campaigning that one now for quite a while. So, I think there could something come in from that way to instil that culture into the industry if we could.
Mick Ord (Host): Is that something that you would be able to comment on Adrian?
Adrian Hodkinson: Training's so, so important. I mean, the major insurers in farming, like NFU Mutual and AXXA and some of the other ones are always looking to, uh, improve the risk management on farms and training is part of that risk management. Brian mentioned safe stop. It's really, really important part of this campaign, making sure that people are stopping things properly. Got the handbrake on, take the key out, stopping everything before you go around the back to try and adjust something, or before you attempted to stick your hand into something to try and pull something out. So many people have lost arms or had really awful injuries that have stopped them farming because they just haven't turned things off.
And that's part of the training. It's part of making sure that, um, when you're operating machinery, that you stay inside the cab because that cab protects you should the tractor or whatever machine it is, roll over into the ditch. That cab stops you falling out and getting squashed by the tractor or by the machine.
And it's so important to have that seatbelt on that Brian's mentioned and uh, Brian's right in construction the flashing green light on the top that shows the seatbelts being worn. I'd love to see that sort of thing in agriculture that shows that you're wearing the seatbelt and that you're going to stay inside that safety cab., because that's what it is. It's a safety cab, so that's all part of safe driver. And I think safe vehicle is part of that. Machines regularly maintained that you've got the safety features working properly. That you've got the, um, mirrors clean and not broken, that you can see where you're going and that you're wearing that seatbelt and, uh, it's keeping you in that safety cab.
Mick Ord (Host): Brian, I can see you're nodding your head vigorously.
Brian Rees: Just one thing on leading on to the vehicle thing now, as you might appreciate, it's about 10 years now since, there was an addition come into telehandlers. They've always had a warning light to tell you when they were becoming unstable. But about 10 years ago, 2012, I think it came in that they locked the hydraulics. When the track is potentially becoming unstable, it locks the hydraulics off. So the only thing you can do is retract the boom. Now, when this first came in, there was quite a lot of dissatisfaction, if you could say from the industry, because we were doing the SHAD events then, and we used to get a bit of flack back off farmers and the answer we had for them: if you don't overload your machine, you are never going to have a problem. And that seems to satisfy them now. And people have accepted that now, that if they want to do a three-ton job, they've got to buy a three ton machine. They don't buy a two and a half ton machine and try and make that do it. So making people buy things that are fit for purpose is crucial.
But when you talk about safety devices, we had that one 10, 12 years ago, and I think I'm right in thinking that some of the telehandler accidents over the last, now three or four years, have reduced slightly. And I'm just wondering, those machines are all coming through the system now, aren't they? Now about five years ago it came in that if you get off the seat in a tractor now the PTO automatically stops unless you keep it going for some reason. So it'll be really interesting to see now in the next two or three years whether the entanglement, accidents start to reduce a bit because those tractors are now coming through the system.
They've had that in horticulture for years. When you got up off the seat, they even stopped the machines. This only stops the PTO, but that is the one that kills people, naturally.
Mick Ord (Host): Adrian in terms of ensuring safer vehicles. I guess now that spring's here, it's as good a time as any to ensure that all the farm vehicles are fully maintained and working particularly after the fairly long and cold winter we've just had.
Adrian Hodkinson: Yeah, I mean, uh, farm vehicles have a, have a tough life. They need to be regularly maintained. They need to be properly checked, and they need to be working in decent condition. The obvious things I look for, I, I make sure that, um, farmers have got the windows clean on the cabs that the mirrors are in, are clean and, uh, aren't broken and they're actually fitted. Sometimes it's not even there. So how can you hope of, of keeping anybody safe around you if you can't see anything around the machine whatsoever. And, um, it's so important to make sure things like the brakes are working properly. We get a lot of incidents with quad bikes. Quad bikes rolling over and, uh, training's really important to make sure that you know how to stop a quad bike from rolling over, and obviously wearing a helmet reduces the risk of you getting a brain injury should the quad bike roll over.
What I'm mentioning quads about is it's important to maintain them as well because they get used for everything. They don't get looked after particularly well. The brakes don't get checked, the tire pressures don't get checked, and they rely on quite low tire pressures. And if you've got the wrong tire pressure in one wheel, it really makes the machine unstable. And we've seen so many times where one of these has gone over and squashed somebody, and that person can't get out from underneath it, and they die! Because they haven't been trained, they're not wearing a helmet and they've not maintained their quad bike and so, so sad that we're still seeing that.
One example I can think of, he was a work experience trainee and he, he suffered head injuries, awful head injuries after coming off his quad. He wasn't wearing any head protection and he hadn't been given any training. We prosecuted the farming business and they got a pretty hefty fine. I often hear that there isn't a law about helmets on quads in agriculture. That's nonsense. Everybody using a farm quad bike should be wearing head protection of some sort, whether it's a proper quad helmet or whether it's even a riding helmet, motorcycle helmet. Just make sure you are wearing a helmet whenever you're driving one of these things. So, so important.
Mick Ord (Host): I guess you echo all that, Brian. Yeah?
Brian Rees: I would agree with that. We used to use one on the SHAD events years ago. There was one year when 12 people got killed on a quad and the HSE did a bit more research into it and they got all the coroner's reports back from the 12 fatal accidents, and it worked out that if those 12 people had been wearing helmets, 10 of them would still be alive. We keep telling people it's the law to wear a helmet. And I think everybody knows , who uses a quad. They all know they should be wearing an helmet, but for some reason they can't be bothered. So, I, I tell that tale quite often. About 10 out of the 12 would've still been alive. And you can tell people, start to think a little bit then. Just a little bit, you know.
Mick Ord (Host): Well, I mean, let, let's face it, that's the whole point of the campaign, isn't it? I read a powerful line on the WorkRight Agriculture website that for me, kind of encapsulates what the campaign is all about. Let me read it to you:
"Take a moment to think about what would happen to you and your family if you were seriously injured and unable to work.".
And that kind of says it all, doesn't it?
Brian Rees: It does. It really does. Because people think it's never going to happen to us. And I've heard that so many times.
Adrian Hodkinson: Brian, you're so right. It's not just yourself that's going to get hurt. If you, for whatever reason, can't work, how's the family going to cope? Your whole world is thrown upside down. It means you're going to have to get help from friends, from colleagues. You're going to have to work out different ways of farming, and it might really affect your livelihood.
It might actually stop you from farming. And that's so, so sad. And, um, these instances are so, so preventable. And usually by something really simple. So concentrate on safe farm, safe driver, safe vehicle. Things where you can really make a difference. And stop those really awful incidents from happening that are either going to affect you, going to have a massive impact on the family, going to have a massive impact on the local community as well.
Bottom line is it could stop you farming. It's going to cost you that much.
Mick Ord (Host): Many thanks to Adrian Hodgkinson, the head of HSE'S Agriculture Sector for joining us today and to farmer and safety instructor, Brian Rees. Thanks to you too for listening to this podcast. I hope it's encouraged you to think some more about safety on your farm and maybe act to make sure that it's a safe place to work for you, your family, and your workers.
There are some really useful tips and checks on the website and some short and practical videos on farm safety. Just google "WorkRight Agriculture" and it'll take you to the campaign page. Or log on to workright.campaign.gov.uk, and both links of course will be included in our episode notes.
So until next time, this is Mick Ord signing off on this HSE podcast.
Have a safe and prosperous year.
Wednesday Nov 16, 2022
Wednesday Nov 16, 2022
Wednesday Nov 16, 2022
In this podcast, HSE Chair Sarah Newton and Professor Cary Cooper, one the world’s foremost experts on wellbeing, discuss the importance of working in partnership to prevent work-related stress and to promote good mental health.
Amongst other things, the podcast covers HSE’s Working Minds campaign, which aims to ensure psychological risks are treated the same as physical ones, that employers recognise their legal duty to prevent work related stress to support good mental health in the workplace, and that they have the tools they need to do achieve this.
For more information on the campaign visit ‘Working Minds'
Mick Ord (Host): A warm welcome to you whenever and wherever you are listening to this Health and Safety Executive podcast from me, Mick Ord, and our soon-to-be-announced guests. This podcast is the second in a series designed to help you to make your life a little easier, both in work and maybe even spilling over into your personal life, you never know.
The Health and Safety Executive is committed to improving the health and safety of workers in Great Britain. And today we'll be focusing on an issue that affects all industry sectors, work-related stress, and its potential impact on mental health. In 2020/21, more than 800,000 people suffered from work-related stress, depression, or anxiety. The impact on workers and businesses is considerable. A recent report by Deloitte estimates that the total annual cost of poor mental health to employers has increased by 25% since 2019, costing UK employers up to 56 billion pounds a year. 56 billion! Last year, on the 16th of November, HSE launched its Working Minds campaign to encourage, promote, and support good mental health in the workplace and prevent work-related stress. And today we'll talk about the successes of the campaign, what still needs to be done and why this topic is still so important. Joining us today is Sarah Newton, Chair of the Health and Safety Executive. In addition, Sarah is currently a non-executive director of the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust. Prior to taking over the chair in 2020, Sarah's experience includes serving as a director for American Express Europe, Age Concern, and the independent academic think tank, the International Longevity Centre. Sarah was also an MP for ten years, and served as a minister in the Department of Work and Pensions, responsible for HSE and Health and Work Unit.
And we're delighted to also have with us Professor Cary Cooper, one of the world's foremost experts on wellbeing, and a 50th anniversary professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at the Manchester Business School. He's the author or editor of over 170 books, has written more than 450 scholarly articles for academic journals, and is a frequent contributor to national newspapers, TV and radio. A big welcome, both.
Sarah. First of all, thanks for joining us for the podcast. Now, your Working Minds campaign has just celebrated its first anniversary, so tell us about why you launched a campaign in the first place and what it's achieved..
Sarah Newton: First of all, thank you so much for inviting me on to your podcast this morning, Mick. You know, let's be honest about this. Any one of us can experience stress. It can affect people in different ways and different times, so it's a very prevalent issue. So why did HSE get involved with dealing with this? Well, it's clearly our mission to prevent work-related ill health, and as you said from those startling statistics in your introduction, many people are experiencing stress in the workplace, and we know it's the number one reason why people will have an absence from work is. So we were looking at a new strategy last year.
We've developed a new strategy, which is protecting people in places and five strategic objectives. One of them clearly to reduce work-related ill health, with a particular focus on stress because it affects so many people. And we chose to launch this campaign because HSE, while we have a huge amount of expertise, we don't have all the answers. And we really wanted to work in partnership with a wide range of organisations who together, we could bring the big difference that we want to see. It's all about working in partnership, collaborating with others, making sure that employers have the knowledge, the tools that they need to really support their workers to prevent work-related stress and ill health.
Mick Ord (Host): As we've heard the figures on people taking absence from work because of work-related stress have really increased over the past couple of years. What are your thoughts about that, Sarah?
Sarah Newton: Well, I think a part of it, or probably a very large part of it, is to do with the fact as a society, we've been far more prepared to talk about mental ill health. There's been a huge amount of really positive work to de stigmatise mental ill health, which of course includes stress and anxiety and depression. And so I think as a result of that, people are more prepared to acknowledge that they're suffering from mental ill health.
Mick Ord (Host): Professor Cooper, I guess that you'd echo everything that Sarah said there about the Working Minds campaign?
Prof. Cary Cooper: Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, HSE has always been at the forefront looking at stress at work. It was the only country actually, 20 years ago, set up the management standards for stress at work. I was involved in that 20 years ago. And it's gotten worse, a lot of the problems. That was really ahead of its time, but times have changed. We've had a financial crisis since then. We've had a pandemic. We have a cost of living crisis. We're about to enter a recession. This has really become even more significant and more important than ever before. And the HSE, by revising the management standards, by getting involved in this Working Minds campaign is really quite important. And by the way, it's not just the UK. Every developed country has between 50% and 60% of its long-term absence due to stress, anxiety, and depression. It's not just the UK. This is a kind of global problem, particularly in the developed world.
Mick Ord (Host): Sarah, what are the next steps for Working Minds then?
Sarah Newton: So Working Minds is a collaboration. It's a partnership of a number of organisations. We've already doubled the number of organisations we work with. We're so grateful to our partners. So some of our founding partners such as Acas, Ceca, Mind, Mates in Mind. Now we're working with different industry sectors, so working a lot with their representative bodies across a huge range of industries. And a huge benefit to us of that is to draw on their expertise, but also to reach out to their members. You know, big companies will often have HR departments, they'll have investments into all types of health and wellbeing type programs, but small and medium sized companies don't always have those resources available for their staff. So it's very important that we really reach out to every business right across the UK and provide them with some tools that really will make the difference. Most employers will understand that it's their responsibility to think about the physical risks, the physical health concerns that people can have at work, But what they don't often realise is they have an equal responsibility to the psychological wellbeing of their staff. So part of our campaign is to remind employers of those legal responsibilities. They do have a duty to do risk assessments of their employees for both physical and psychological risks to ill health, and then to provide them with the toolkits to enable them to assess the risk and then manage and mitigate the risk. And by working with so many different employers, really drawing on their experience what works in their workplaces. So an element of this is going to be peer-to-peer support. So businesses say in the agricultural sector, they come, share good experiences together on what works for them. That's a very different sector than say the NHS or working in an advanced manufacturing location.
So while the principles are the same, the applications and probably the examples of good practice will be different. And so we'll be wanting to build on the huge success of the first year, have more people become partners, more people become champions, access the materials that are there so that they can take some really practical actions in their workplaces to improve the health and wellbeing of their staff.
Mick Ord (Host): And as you've already said, it's not just big companies with HR departments, is it? It's the small, maybe a company with 20 employees or something like that.
Sarah Newton: You know how right you are. But a vast majority of people in the UK are employed in small and medium size organisations. And actually recent data will show a lot of people are employed in, you know, what might loosely be called the gig economy, or platform workers. And platform workers, may be just part of their employment. Perhaps they've got a job with an employer, but then they actually supplement that income as a platform worker, and those companies are not in day-to-day contact with their employees, with the people that they are working with to actually deliver the services through these platforms. Now they really need to think hard about how they are going to reach out to those employers and make sure that they are undertaking their risk assessments, so to prevent people having physical or mental ill health at work.
Mick Ord (Host): Cary, you wanted to come in there?
Prof. Cary Cooper: Yeah, Sarah's really hit a really important issue. A lot of the bigger companies since the financial crisis of 2008-2015, have really treated stress at work and wellbeing much more seriously, much more strategically. There are now directors of health and wellbeing in many of the big companies and public sector bodies. Indeed, the NHS have. Every hospital in the NHS has a non-executive director on its board who's responsible for employee health and wellbeing. The real issue, and I think why this campaign is a really important one is for the SME sector, small and medium sized enterprises, because they don't have big HR departments, chief medical officers, and so on. Five years ago, I founded the National Forum for Health and Wellbeing at Work, made up of 40 global employers from Rolls Royce and BT and Microsoft, it goes on and on, BBC and so on, including the NHS Executive. Those people are treating this as a strategic issue. They have directors of health and wellbeing. They're increasingly getting somebody on the board who's responsible for health and wellbeing at work because we have to hold organisations accountable for ensuring that employee health and wellbeing, that stress and mental health is treated properly. That they are actually looking at the data on it, the metrics, which tells them that things aren't going so well, or that they do metrics to make sure that they understand what good looks like in terms of an employer in terms of mental wellbeing of their staff.
But it's the SME sector that really needs quite a lot of help. The gig economy that Sarah talked about, I think is really important. And the more we get this out and the more we get the big employers, by the way, to help their supply chain, I think that's the way we're going to get the SME sector, Sarah. I think we've got to get them down to the supply chain or where they're actually physically located, so they have a plant in a particular area and there are other SMEs in that area. You know, we have to help because the big boys have the infrastructure. They have the HR departments, occupational health, and they know and they understand what the HSE is providing and what other people are providing in this space. And that's going to be, I think, our big challenge because our productivity, aside from anything else, our productivity per capita is pretty damn poor. We're set bottom of the G 7 on productivity per capita, tied with Italy. And we're 17th in the G 20 on productivity per capita. So it's health of employees, but it's about our nation. It's about the productivity of our country. And if we create the right kind of cultures where there's wellbeing and people feel valued and trusted and can work flexibly and have good line managers, we're going to make a real difference.
Sarah Newton: Yeah. I think what I'd really, really like to pick up on that last point, Cary, it's not only the right thing to do. That companies have a legal obligation. But it's actually in their interests. The data that you get from large organisations will very clearly say for every pound they spend, they get it back 4, 5, 6 times in terms of the productivity of their staff. So there's been a lot of work done by Deloitte and others, which show the return on investment to companies that really invest, or organisations that really invest in the health and wellbeing of their staff. So I think that is a key message that we want to enable to get out. And it's often, I think, more easily received if it's company to company. People in your sector actually making that case rather than a regulator. But we want to enable that message to get across by creating the opportunities for employers to share this type of economic information as well as all the practical things that they're doing in their workplaces to really improve the health and wellbeing of their staff.
And one of the things you touched on which I couldn't agree with more is about training line managers. They are absolutely critical. I agree with you. We certainly see at HSE and our duty holders, especially as a result of the pandemic, a lot of focus in the boardroom on health and safety and wellbeing of their staff. and a genuine commitment to do the right thing. But enabling that to happen in the organisation really requires line managers to be trained and well supported. Because without that support, it can be quite a scary conversation. You know, if somebody comes to you and wants to talk to you about things that are really distressing them and causing them stress and anxiety in the work – and that could be partly related to what's happening at home, things outside the workplace., As you were talking about though, the huge financial pressures that many people are under at the moment. It's not always an easy conversation to hear if you haven't been trained on how to hear that conversation and how to respond and understand that your organisation will support you in enabling you to do your job. To either signpost that person to some more professional support, or to give you the ability to support them in the way that you and the employer want to. So it requires, you know, quite a lot of effort and support for organisations into their line managers so that they can have those conversations.
Prof. Cary Cooper: It's interesting, Mick, what happened when we formed the National Forum for Health and Wellbeing five years ago. it's made up of HR directors, chief medical officers, directors of health and wellbeing of all these major companies, public sector bodies. On our first meeting, they said the big issue for us – this is five years ago, this is pre pandemic – our big issue is people tend to get promoted to managerial roles or recruited to those roles based on their technical skills, not their people skills. Our big issue is that we don't have the cadre of managers all the way up the system and every sector where there's parity between their technical skills and their social skills. And so the EQ – the emotional intelligence of our line managers is really fundamental in creating a culture. Because listen, all of us in the workplace have a boss in our careers. That boss values you, listens to you, enables you to work flexibly if that's what you want. Understands what's going on in your personal life as well, because that impacts your work and treats you like a human being. Then that's going to create an atmosphere and create a culture where wellbeing will thrive and stress will not thrive. And so I think our challenge here, and by the way, the big companies and big public sector bodies know this. We've got to get the message across to the SME sector, to the gig economy, to the third sector, and that's why Working Minds means a lot to me because those are the organisations that we really have to get, you know, get on board on this and for them to totally understand. Because to be honest with you, they employ more people than the private sector. The SMEs employ more people than the big boys do.
Mick Ord (Host): Have you got some examples of the kind of impact work-related stress has on workers and the actual impact it's had on their lives? Just give us a real life example if you could.
Prof. Cary Cooper: Oh, there's so many examples. I'll tell you what is a big example. I hate to make this kind of contemporary, but I'm going to do it anyway – bullying at work has always been a big issue. Where we have toxic managers who bully people – command and control types. That's very damaging. I did a big study many years ago with the CBI, the TUC, there was 80 organisations in all. We looked at nearly a million workers, and in depth five and a half thousand. Almost every sector was involved in this, because we were trying to identify what the impact of bullying was, what the extent of it was, and we found that really at any moment in time, 10% of people are being bullied at work. By bullying at work, it means persistent devaluing of people. It's not physical bullying, it's psychological bullying. And the impact is that, the mental health impact is profound. And we are looking at all– by the way, they're in every sector from the NHS ,to universities, to IT companies, you name it. It's not just in what you think is the really fast moving high octane businesses, It's everywhere. And therefore that goes back again to an issue that we really have to tackle. By the way, companies now do have policies on bullying at work. Which they didn't have, and that followed the kind of studies we do, but people are affected by the workplace a lot. We can do things about that, and that's the important thing. When we're recruiting people for jobs now, particularly managerial roles, we have to ensure there's parity between their people skills and their technical skills. That will help not just bullying, but just bad management, frankly. And that will help create a culture because bosses do create cultures.
Mick Ord (Host): And in terms of the way in which workplace culture has changed over the years, Sarah, are we in a better place now than we may have been 20 years ago? Or do you think there's still a huge amount of work to be done, particularly in relation to what Cary was talking about there?
Sarah Newton: Oh goodness. What a question That is Mick, that's quite a long perspective, 20 years, isn't it? And all workplaces. I would say since my time at HSE over the last couple of years and really reflecting on the COVID pandemic experience, listening to people at HSE who have been inspectors and with the organisation for say, 20, 30 years. What they told me was it was a really positive response of all the different businesses that we've been in touch with and supported over the pandemic. They really did want to do the right thing for their employers. You know, big, small, all the different sizes of business. We were supporting all sorts of business at which we don't normally regulate to enable them to carry on providing the essential goods and services that we all needed during the pandemic to enable their staff to go to work as safely as they possibly could. And what they told me was, They really felt that employers were trying to do the right thing. There was a high degree of engagement, and we really found when we were doing spot checks, you know, high degrees of compliance with the advice that was put out for employers. And I think as Cary and others have reflected the.
Because of the pandemic. There's just a heightened sense amongst the leaders of small companies, medium companies in the boardrooms of the big companies about the importance of the health and wellbeing of their employees. It's just the right thing to do. It makes good business sense, and what I want to do is use that as a springboard to really make further progress. Because while that may be the case that there is a greater awareness. Certainly looking at the data, the amount of people who are reporting that they are being ill at work, stress at work is causing them to be ill and they're having to take a day off work, those numbers are all going in the wrong direction. And you know, it's a very significant problem. So I do believe that it's the culture of an organisation that is the most important thing to change. It is about leadership. Whether, you know, you are the boss of 10 people, 20 people, or 20,000 people. You as the boss set the tone, you set the priorities for your organisation. And I know that part of our campaign is very much about that culture change and enabling leaders at all levels of organisations to have the tools, to have the information, to be able to develop that culture change. And just so I get a quick plug in here, Mick, I mean, there's a newsletter, there is a campaign microsite, people can join up, become champions, sign up to the newsletters. They will be given free information about what they can do. And as the campaign grows, as really it's going to be a movement that develops, there'll be sharing of good examples, sharing of good practice. So it's going to be an ongoing set of information and tools that people could use to help them to, you know, create better workplaces across the country.
Mick Ord (Host): It really is an active contribution towards that, isn't it?
Sarah Newton: Yeah.
Mick Ord (Host): Cary, what specifically are the signs and symptoms that employees should be looking for in their
Prof. Cary Cooper: Okay, well, there's a word called pressure, and there's a word called stress. So pressure by the way, for most of us, is stimulating and motivating, but when pressure exceeds our ability to cope, then that's stress. And the dividing line, normally, when you know you're getting close to going from the pressure zone into the stress zone, is usually behaviour change. So if you're a line manager and you observe your employee who normally has a good sense of humour, is really active, participates in team meetings actively. And all of a sudden they're more withdrawn, more angry, more negative and that's not the way they normally were, that's the first sign. So behaviour change is the first sign that you've gone from the pressure zone into the stress zone. Then you start getting the symptoms, the physical symptoms of it: lack of sleep, constant headaches, health changes as well. You start drinking more, smoking more. A whole range of issues. And those signs are really important to observe. But if you can get it early, it's like anything in the health arena, isn't it? The earlier you can identify the behavioural change in a human being. So if I'm walking down at Manchester Business School and somebody says to me "Cary, you haven't been yourself the last several months, is something wrong?" that should be an indication to me that something is wrong. That my behaviour's being perceived by other people as having changed quite dramatically. And that's because I'm now under stress, not under just the normal everyday positivities of pressure. Because pressure is kind of stimulating. You know, we all like a bit of that in our job. And you really have to then identify what the issue is that's driving that. And again, if you have a good boss who listens to you or a good work colleague who listens to you, or you don't necessarily need an EAP – an employee assistance program, counseling services. Many, almost all businesses have them, I think they're great. They do work. I did an evaluation for the HSE incidentally many, many years ago. Of all the EAPs in the UK, HSE has been part of my life, it looks like! My career life for so many years! But I did, I was commissioned to do a study of all the EAPs many years ago to look at them. How effective are they? And they are very effective. But the important thing is they help the individual, but they don't change the organisation culture. And that's why this kind of a campaign the HSE are doing and have always been involved in from 20 years ago with our management standards, is let's change the culture. Let's do prevention. EAP helps the individual cope with the problem they already have. And that's fine. And we need that. That's a part of the arsenal, the mental health arsenal that we need to have. But it would be really nice if we can start preventing some of this in the first place so we didn't have to do remedial work and treatment like EAPs and other things.
Sarah Newton: Well I couldn't agree more. And the campaign is all about prevention by raising awareness amongst employers. And we do have, as part of the toolkit, a stress assessment tool that organisations can use because I absolutely agree with Cary. It's about identifying in your organisation, whatever the size of it, what is causing the stress in the workplace? You know, as Cary says, you can be really quite exciting to be in an environment where you feel that pressure to get things done, and lots of people like challenging environments. but when it tips over into causing stress in the workplace, the toolkit is there to help organisations identify where it's happening and what is driving it so they can look more systemically at what they can do differently. I mean, there are some really simple recent examples which have got quite a lot of media attention around saying to staff We don't want you to be looking at your emails, for example, beyond a certain time. I mean, not everyone can do this, but there's quite a lot of blurring of the lines between work and home going on in the workplace today. And so that in itself can cause stress because people aren't certain what their bosses are expecting of them to their working hours. And so some simple measures like that, being very clear that we really value you, we really appreciate you. We want you to have a separation between your work life and your home life and so we don't want you to be switching on your computer, your laptop, or looking at your emails beyond this time.. And then manager's not responding in saying, Look, I noticed you've sent this at a certain hour. That's not my expectation. I'm really happy to respond to this tomorrow. Let's talk about this tomorrow. So simple things like that can make a big difference, but you'll only know if this is an issue or not in your organisation if you undertake the toolkit. If you use the toolkit, you assess whether that's stressful or not, and then reach out. Have those conversations, put things in place, check in. Are they working? Are they having the desired effect?
I think Sarah's raised a really interesting point. When my national forum was formed five years ago, the first issue was the line manager. Guess what the second issue was, Sarah? It was email usage. And now we have the Right to Disconnect law in France, Portugal, New Zealand. We have a number of countries doing that. Incidentally, a company was fined 60,000 euros for breaking it. So they actually use it. That means no manager can send an email out of office hours to their subordinates. That means at night, at weekends, or while they're on holiday. I do have a problem with that law in a way, because if we're to work flexibly, how the hell do we work? If you're picking your kids up at 3:30 and want to be with them, read with them, spend time with them, but then at night start to work, and like Volkswagen, you close down the server at 5:30 to try to stop people doing it or you say you can't do your emails at night, we have a problem. But we do need guidelines on the use of emails because it is interfering with people's lives. It's a whole field by the way, and tons of research on it now, called Technostress. You know, things like don't CC in everybody, don't send an email to anybody at on a Friday afternoon. Even if you say as a line manager, I've heard managers say to me, "I send an email, but I tell them not to respond until Monday morning. Well, why send it in the first place? Because they're going to worry about it all weekend. So we really do need simple things like Sarah said. So my national forum came up with a four page document. This is good practice. This is what you don't do to protect people's private lives. Yes. If the company's burning down, there's something going on that's really significant, yes out of office hours, fine. But try not to interfere with people's private life. They need time, They need respite away from the pressures of life because we have a lot of 'em honest. So that's a part of the puzzle. that's a part of the wellbeing puzzle. The line manager. Emails. The culture. Flexible working. All of that creates a strategic response to try to prevent people getting ill and being overloaded.
Mick Ord (Host): So finally, Sarah, for people listening, whatever the size of their company, what do you think that they should be doing now to address the issues that we've been talking about today?
Sarah Newton: First of all, I would really encourage them to become a champion. So we've got a really good website, which is workright.campaign.gov.uk/workingminds . They'll find loads of free information there. They can sign up to be a champion, and then on an ongoing basis, will get free really useful information. And then start today. Just think about how you can use those five R's in your workplace to reach out to a colleague. to recognise, to listen to their concerns. To respond. Then to reflect on how's that worked, what difference is it making? And then just make it routine. Check in with your colleagues to see how things are going for them. So those simple five R's are things that any one of us can do each day in our workplace.
Mick Ord (Host): So Sarah Newton, Chair of the Health and Safety Executive and professor Cary Cooper, thanks a lot for joining us today.
Friday Oct 21, 2022
Friday Oct 21, 2022
Friday Oct 21, 2022
In this podcast, we discuss HSE’s latest construction initiative focusing on the risks of injuries and aches, pain and discomfort in joints, muscles and bones known as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
With 40,000 construction workers reporting that they suffered with MSDs last year, Matt Birtles, Principal Ergonomics and Human Factors Consultant at HSE and Peter Crosland, National Civil Engineering Director at CECA discuss what the industry can do to promote change and protect its workforce.
Amongst other things, the podcast covers HSE’s ‘Your health. Your future’ construction campaign, the impact that these injuries can have on workers and employers legal responsibilities and the sensible control measures that can be introduced regardless of the size of the construction site.
For more information on the campaign visit ‘Your health. Your future'
[00:00:00] Mick Ord (Host): A warm welcome to you whenever you are listening to this Health and Safety Executive podcast from me, Mick Ord, and our soon to be announced guest experts. This podcast will be the first in a series designed to help you to make your life a little easier, both in work and maybe even spilling over into your personal life, you never know.
The health and Safety executive is committed to improving the health and wellbeing of workers in Great Britain. And today we'll be focusing on the construction sector, a key industry that employs more than two million people and includes employers and building workers, contractors and subcontractors, staff and freelancers alike in a range of organisations from sole traders to multinationals.
Last year did the UK alone, 40,000 construction workers suffered from injuries and aches, pain and discomfort in joints, muscles and bones. Such injuries can have a serious impact on their ability to perform tasks, their quality of life, and in some cases their ability to stay in work and earn a living or having to take time off work as well.
Many people suffer from long term pain and discomfort as a result of injuries sustained on building sites. So with such worrying stats in mind, the HSE are embarking on the Work Right construction campaign. This means that HSE inspectors will be performing a thousand inspections at building sites in the UK.
So what will they be expecting from companies? Joining us is Matt Birtles, an ergonomics expert from the HSE Science Division, and a little later we'll be hearing from Peter Crosland, the National Civil Engineering Director at Ceca, the Civil Engineering Contractors Association.
Well, first of all, Matt, thanks for joining us for the podcast. What should companies expect if an inspector does visit their site?
[00:02:18] Matt Birtles: First and foremost, thank you Mick for hosting us and having us on this podcast. When
an inspector comes knocking on site, first and foremost, expect the norm. So they'll be looking at safety as well as health issues. But what's happening during the campaign especially is there'll be an increased focus on particularly the kinds of risk factors associated with musculoskeletal disorders.
So there's been an awful lot of effort ahead of this campaign within, you know, my regulatory colleagues in HSE to train them upon understanding the key risk factors. For musculoskeletal disorders, how to assess them and what kind of controls they might want to see in place. And so when the inspector does come, they'll be looking at the kinds of manual handling activities and maybe some repetitive work that commonly go on in construction sites and looking specifically at ways in which the risks are controlled.
So there may be some of that manual handling activity happening during the inspection, and they'll just observe that and watch how it's done, where potentially improvements could be made. And also looking at the paperwork and the risk management system. If there aren't any manual handling operations happening at the time of the inspection, they're just more likely to ask principal contractors or ask them on site responsible for safety about manual handling, and ask them to show them their risk management systems, any risk assessments they have, any planned risk controls.
Especially at those points where you'd expect increased manual handling. So moving materials around during deliveries, for example, during fitting or moving plant equipment. And so just an increased focus on musculoskeletal disorders in every inspection for the next six weeks or so.
[00:03:57] Mick Ord (Host): And who specifically is the "Your Health, Your Future" campaign aimed at?
[00:04:02] Matt Birtles: The target really is anybody involved in construction. And so while obviously anybody on the site, you're more likely to see colleague inspectors or regulatory colleagues, we'll be looking at those involved in the design and then planning of construction, and procurement, for example, and then certainly those on the managing sites and working on sites and doing the physical tasks on sites.
And it's aimed at larger construction sites or smaller. And so we're going to try and focus on as many sites as we possibly can and as greater variance as possible. But everybody has responsibility for helping to manage MSDS or musculoskeletal disorders.
[00:04:43] Mick Ord (Host): And why the focus now on the manual handling assessment?
[00:04:48] Matt Birtles: Well, manual handling assessment. It's gotten easier over the years with the advent of the HSE tools like the MAC tool or manual handling assessment charts or the RAPP tool risk assessment for pushing and pulling. For, you know, barrows and the like, Manual handling assessment has gotten much easier. And while doing the assessment using the tile method or L23 method, it meant all the methods involved a checklist of looking at all the different risk factors.
It could be quite arduous and not necessarily give you the answers that would lead neatly to potential solutions. Now, with the MAC tool, which is not new, there's nothing new in the MAC tool per se. It's much easier to actually do a quick assessment and wherever identifying manual handling operations. It's very quick and easy now – even using the online version, which is the new element of all this I suppose – to do a quick assessment and understand the key risks and level of risk. And so the barriers have gone for potentially, arguably, long and arduous risk assessments. It's now very straightforward to do a risk assessment, and so it shouldn't be a barrier anymore.
[00:05:54] Mick Ord (Host): And how serious is the problem of injuries sustained in moving and handling construction materials?
[00:05:59] Matt Birtles: Inevitably being who I am, where I'm from, I'm going to say very. But actually the stats do add up. As you mentioned, 40,000 injuries per year on average in the construction sector. But if you compare that to other industries or the rest of all industry, you’ve kind of almost got double the rates of musculoskeletal disorder amongst construction workers.
So, while across industry, we might see roughly speaking about 1/100 workers getting injured with musculoskeletal disorder, in construction, it's around 1/50. So about 54% of ill health for the construction sector is musculoskeletal disorders. So it's far too common. It affects far too many lives.
Then the other way of looking at how serious it is, is what's the impact on individuals and per individual? What happens to that person, and we may cover this a bit later, but it can affect every aspect of life. Of course, as you mentioned it can impact on your ability to actually go to work and earn a living. But also it can impact on your home activity, mucking around with your kids, the enjoyment you might get from normal stuff like going down the pub, going to the cinema, and those sorts of things.
Because of the nature of the discomfort with MSDs, it can actually affect your ability to stand and make that uncomfortable, but also your ability to sit down and make that uncomfortable. So in those sorts of areas, it becomes very serious because it can really deeply impact on people's health and wellbeing, not just in work, but also outside of work.
[00:07:28] Mick Ord (Host): Peter Crosland from Ceca, Peter, have you got some examples of the kind of injuries that workers have sustained and the actual impact it's had on their lives?
[00:07:38] Peter Crosland: Well, yes. Thanks Mick. And I think yes, all too often where you get examples of people who have worked in the industry for a long time and then suddenly become unable to work.
And coincidentally, I was at a meeting this morning up in the northeast where one of the previous site supervisors had worked for 20 years laying curbs. And actually had a back that was quite wrecked and he really was in a quite a difficult place. And I think we just hear that story all too often. So one of the problems has been the latency effect of all these issues coming to the surface, and I have to say that given the nature of our workforce, which is, I think we'll all know that demographics by now, they've been banded around. You know, many times that there are a cohort of people who have carried out those activities and are now suffering really quite badly, and they're having to move jobs. They're having to step down away from the work that they really, you know, they joined the industry to do and they can no longer carry out those functions. And as Matt says, that then starts to spill over into home life and it affects the quality of life of not only the worker, but also the family.
[00:08:57] Mick Ord (Host): And in that particular example that you just quoted from the northeast, is there anything that you can do to help that particular person if they've been manual handling in a certain way for 20 or so years?
[00:09:10] Peter Crosland: This is probably going to sound slightly negative, but I think sometimes we are a little bit reactive in the industry rather than proactive. Unfortunately, you have a whole host of workers who have operated in a slightly cavalier manner. Perhaps they didn't know better. And then as we have known, and certainly Matt's team have discovered through the statistics, that actually this is what's happening to the workforce and therefore we need to go and find ways of making sure that that doesn't happen again.
And I think you can cite examples right and way throughout all the activities that certainly we were involved in, whereby, you know, we're always looking to see how we can improve matters for every worker.
[00:09:55] Mick Ord (Host): Matt, with regard to the HSE visits, will companies being given prior notice or will they just turn up?
[00:10:02] Matt Birtles: Generally we'll just turn up, There's not a specific requirement to give a prior notice.
It may well be that a site's already got a planned inspection or a meeting with a regulatory colleague, and that will then turn into a musculoskeletal disorders focused inspection. But unless you've got already something planned in the next six weeks with a regulatory colleague, no, expect them to just turn up an announced.
[00:10:26] Mick Ord (Host): How are the construction sites chosen beforehand?
[00:10:30] Matt Birtles: Well, no sites are exempt, so any site could be visited by a regulatory colleague. Inspectors generally visit sites that are known to be higher risk, and there is some intel on that. There's a number of ways to identifying the sites to visit. The F10 notification database that we have on sites where we've had an instance before, perhaps sites where some concerns have already been brought to our attention through various means or sites, perhaps where they've received RIDDOR accident forms, or they've had RIDDOR reportable accidents in the past that have not previously been selected for investigation.
There'll be some channelling with that along with a sort of local intelligence as well. Knowing where the sites are, but the sites, there's no specific requirement or desire to pick just on small or just on larger sites. Any site could be visited to be perfectly honest.
[00:11:18] Mick Ord (Host): And what does the law say about what employees need to do to protect their workforce?
[00:11:23] Matt Birtles: There are various laws. I suppose the one that's most specific to this campaign is the manual handling operations regulations. It's relatively straightforward, to be honest. In fact, if you ask any of my inspector colleagues – where I'm from in in the agency, it's our privilege to often train them – I imagine most inspector colleagues will say one of three words, and that's AVOID. ASSESS. REDUCE.
So the law pertaining to manual handling is avoid hazardous operations. Now, that's important. It doesn't say avoid manual handling anywhere in the law. in fact, good manual handling is actually good for you. It does keep you fit, keep your muscular, and potentially there’s research that suggests you may live longer. So don't avoid all manual handling, but avoid hazardous operations wherever you possibly can.
But if you can't avoid hazardous manual handling, then we don't immediately, you know. Put in a claim or something. We assess those hazards. We assess the risk using usually the MAC tool and the RAPP tool initially, and that's a five-minute task. It'll take longer to, you know, find it on the website maybe than actually to do an assessment.
But I promise you the second assessment, you deal with will take five minutes, and then you assess those tasks to understand the risk in order to reduce the risk. This is where the rubber really hits the road, in terms of risk management. We can have lots of really nice – in terms of the MAC and the RAPP tool – very colourful assessments. But unless they're used to actually challenge the tasks and make those tasks easier to do risk reduction by making the jobs easier, then it's just from the paperwork.
So avoid, assess, and reduce risk is what it's all about.
[00:12:59] Mick Ord (Host): And Peter, what are the barriers to employers and workers on sites?
[00:13:04] Peter Crosland: I, I think there are many barriers, but I think it depends what type of site that you are looking at. What we find within Ceca particularly, we have a very broad church of members. So ranging from tier ones through to SMEs, almost on to solo practitioners in some cases, although they're not direct members because we do have limits on that.
But I think one of the barriers will be for those, I would say, down the supply chain to be able to access the information and training that they need to carry out the work properly. So, you know, we've already mentioned the fact that yes, there is a legal requirement and there are others that apply as well.
Obviously, you know, not least the ‘74 Health and Safety at Work Act, you know, we have as employers, have a duty of care. So regardless of where those people are in the supply chain, there is somebody responsible for that person. I actually, a bit like Matt, I split the sort of desires into three parts really.
There is a sort of like a MUST DO, a SHOULD DO, and a COULD DO.. And that's where the barriers are really, because most do apply the MUST because it is a legal requirement, obviously. There is the SHOULD, which perhaps includes specific training around those lifting requirements that might generate those MSDs. But actually then there's the COULD. You know, what could clients and organisations do to really help the workers make sure that they don't suffer or are made ill through their work? So things like that would be really trying to engage with them, almost a one-to-one, job specific level, to say “Well, look, this is what we've got to do. How do you think we are going to do it?” And I don't think that happens often enough.
[00:14:49] Mick Ord (Host): And Matt, what do employers need to know and do now prior to the possible visit?
[00:14:56] Matt Birtles: Look at their risk management systems they've got in place. That may be occasionally dusting those off or just making sure that they're up to date.
And so that means, you know, looking at the paperwork they've got in terms of a local policy, a local approach to managing musculoskeletal disorders, having a look at the risk assessments that they've already done, and do they still match the tasks? One of the things obviously about construction is they have a changing environment.
So do they need updating and do you need to re-challenge some of the work that's done?? It may have changed since the last assessment, and again, I absolutely agree with what Peter just said through engagement with the workers. So obviously the colleagues who are actually doing the work know what's changing in the environment better than any of us.
Have a chat with them to make sure that the risk assessments are covering the right tasks in terms of, you know, risk profile or effectively, are they the hardest tasks that the people on the sites would prefer to avoid? If they can, are they looking at the right tasks? And if not, maybe add to the risk assessments.
Make sure that you're assessing those tasks that are identified through engagement are the ones that potentially have the greatest level of risk. And then look again at the solutions they've got in place. You know, download those hire catalogues and have a look at what's available and perhaps challenge what is being done.
Is there anything that can be done on the sites that would avoid or eliminate some of the heavier activity by putting things on wheels or using mechanical aids? Just sharpen things up. I'm sure you know, the majority of sites have got risk management in place. Just make sure that that's ready because they're the sort of things that the inspector colleagues will be asking for when they do come around.
[00:16:38] Mick Ord (Host): And Peter, you've already mentioned that the guidance is relevant to small builders as well as large builders. What about subcontractors?
[00:16:46] Peter Crosland: Well, that's even a more difficult to nut to crack, I think. And it's really trying to get that message right throughout the supply chain. So I don't think there's any easy answer to this.
We certainly, within Ceca and also working with HSE, it's very difficult to try and get a common message out to all of the industry, and almost by saying that each part of the industry also almost needs a specific message as well. So we do really work quite hard at trying to get the right message to the right people at the right time.
And obviously small builders, small organisations are part of that conundrum, if you like. So certainly not an easy answer there, Mick. And I think we're all searching for that holy grail in being able to, as I say, do exactly that – get the right message to the right people at the right time.
[00:17:37] Matt Birtles: I concur. That is the challenge, isn't it? Getting the message to the smaller enterprises and the refurb kind of sites is a challenge. While largely the messages are the same for those sites, proportionality and practicability may mean that the kinds of solutions we would expect to see or hope to see under smaller sites would be far less than those on the larger. There’s just not enough money washing around to go to the higher companies and get the largest solutions. And so, we have to be quite pragmatic about what we should expect. But the guidance is still relevant. It's just proportionately, we may expect a little bit less in terms of expenditure on, you know, the various solutions that are out there for smaller sites.
[00:18:18] Mick Ord (Host): If a company doesn't satisfy the criteria laid out by the inspector, then what are the penalties, Matt?
[00:18:23] Matt Birtles: Obviously it depends, and it's still always going to be proportionate to the level of risk. And so, we'd look at the circumstances at each campaign inspection individually. We'll be looking at the relevant standards, the relevant working practices, you know, see how far we are from good practices. For example, using HSE's enforcement management model, which standardises enforcement activity across any sector, anywhere, and looking at the enforcement policy. It could be that, you know, generally speaking for lower-level breaches, verbal advice or perhaps maybe a notice of contravention letter will be used in some circumstances where the gap from good practice or the levels of risk that aren't managed are a bit higher. It could be an improvement notice, and yes, it could be a prohibition notice where there's a more significant risk involved.
So we would expect it to be, you know, across the range of potential enforcements, but as far as I'm aware, there's not a target to, you know, suddenly increase the number of prohibition notices or something to be guided by the risk assessments.
[00:19:25] Mick Ord (Host): And will the inspectors be speaking to individual workers on site?
[00:19:29] Matt Birtles: Yes. I mean, not to try and catch them out or anything. Not to try and point any fingers or blame at any individual. But a part of risk management is making sure that individuals understand the kinds of risks they're exposed to. And have been, you know, informed about levels of risk of certain tasks, have been informed on how to use safe operation procedures, and that could be how to use plant equipment or mechanical aids, for example. And also being informed about the end of any risk management processes. Once we've fixed everything we can through mechanical means and engineering risk out, we'll always have some residual risk at the end that we mop up with training.
And so just to find out how well the trainings worked, the manual handing training, for example: has it landed? Has it been successful? Has it changed behaviour? We'd find that out from talking to individuals on site, not trying to pick upon the individual or point a finger and blame anybody, but just to get the general picture of how risk is managed on that side. There certainly could be, yeah.
[00:20:30] Mick Ord (Host): And is there anything in particular that individual workers will be expected to know?
[00:20:37] Matt Birtles: Yes. I think in terms of risk communication, the kinds of risk factors that they're exposed on site, or the key risk, the higher risk activities, what they may be and how they should accommodate them through RAMS or through safe operating procedures. We would expect anybody on site to know who they need to speak to, if they see any issues that concern for near miss reporting, or for, you know, just reporting potentially hazardous activity, which can happen. We all humans make errors, and we always see something a bit wrong. Where would we go to report that and what would the expectations be on any site?
And then yeah, absolutely. The general health and safety training in manual handling training, for example. God forbid they are quoting HSE sentences that we use. We've taken a lot of the words that are given in manual handling training and made them far less fun. So we certainly wouldn't be an examination – "can you quote our particular guidance?" But the general kind of approach to practices. You know, when was the last time that they were sort of reminded of those approaches and did it land? Those are the kind of things we do want people to know about so that they are empowered, as Peter mentioned, for that level of engagement's important. And that's kind of what we're looking at there to make sure that that side of engagement's happening successfully.
[00:21:57] Mick Ord (Host): And how will you know if the campaign has been a success? How will you measure its success?
[00:22:03] Matt Birtles: Well, this is the first year of a multi-year campaign targeting ill health in construction. So we'll measure the impact of this campaign using the information gathered by inspectors while they're on site. Things like material breach rates or the number of inspections that leads to finding material breaches will be one metric. And then others regarding awareness and behaviour change, as best we can, based on observation. How many sites do we leave having made an immediate impact or a subsequent impact in terms of behaviour changes? But because this is the first campaign in the sector targeting MSDs in quite a while, one of the core objectives of this whole campaign is to provide a detailed knowledge of the state of play across the sector to allow HSE to adapt its approach in subsequent years on how best to support employers and protect workers in the construction industry. So, A lot of the work is going to be about what was effective and that's going to really channel our efforts in future years as we run the next year of the campaign.
[00:23:06] Mick Ord (Host): And I guess that's something that you would echo as well, Peter Crosland?
[00:23:10] Peter Crosland: Absolutely. We can't solve the issue of MSDs in in one fell swoop. As Matt says, it's an ongoing process. MSD issues have taken a long time to surface. Hopefully it won't take us long to resolve, but as we become more aware of the issues and also I think particularly, not to miss out on the fact that we're becoming aware of workers' presenteeism. So even if they are actually suffering with an MSD, because of the financial crisis that we're running through and have been running through for a while, you know, people feel compelled to go to work. So they're forcing themselves to work when they're not actually maybe running at 90%. So we need to keep on top of MSDs and certainly as Matt outlined right at the start, we did some work about five years ago to try and identify the financial cost of MSDs In terms of ill health to the industry. And we worked out, it was round about the 75% mark. So, you know, when you then compare it to the likes of occupational asthma, silicosis, asbestosis, occupational dermatitis, noise induced hearing loss, etcetera, MSDs are simply huge. So it really is. And I'm pleased to hear what Matt said, that it is part of an ongoing campaign that will be repeated on a regular basis.
[00:24:31] Mick Ord (Host): Well look, gentlemen, thanks your lot for that. Anyone listening needs to go onto the HSE site, don't they, if they want a little bit more information about the tools that are available for them and all the stuff you've spoken about. So Peter Crosland from Ceca and Matt Birtles from the HSE Science Division, many, many thanks for joining us on the HSE podcast.
[00:24:53] Matt Birtles: Thanks very much indeed.
[00:24:55] Peter Crosland: Yeah, thank you Mick.
Friday Mar 26, 2021
Friday Mar 26, 2021
After UK Transition: Working with Chemicals - Episode - 6 - Questions and Answers session
The latest episode of HSE’s Working with Chemicals podcast series invites industry voices to answer questions from organisations relating to the GB chemicals regulations.
Whatever branch of chemicals industry you work in, we offer advice and guidance to support your business and point you in the right direction.
Good day and welcome to Episode 6 of the HSE podcast with me, Mick Ord.
For today’s podcast we’ve got a line-up of guests whom regular listeners will recognise from previous episodes and we’ll also be hearing from a special guest who hasn’t appeared before – he’s the Director of the Chemicals Regulation Division of HSE, Richard Daniels.
What we thought we’d do in this episode is go through each regime with the relevant experts and pick out some of the big themes and questions which have emerged from our discussions with companies since the transition period ended last year.
So many of you have been logging onto the HSE website and getting in touch with us as Richard will explain a bit later and we thank you for that – please continue to do so.
So whichever branch of the chemicals industry you work in, if you have questions relating to the GB chemicals regulations, we hope we can cover it here and reassure you that a) you’re not alone and b) we are doing and will continue to do everything in our power to point you in the right direction.
So without further ado – the regimes we cover in this episode include Biocides, Pesticides, CLP – that’s Classification, Labelling and Packaging of chemicals, and REACH – that’s the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals.
Our first expert today, Dr. Nicola Gregg, is Team Leader for Biocides Operational Policy in HSE’s Chemicals Regulation Division.
Hi Nicola, first query for you. I’m a small business that produces coatings and I have an application for a biocide product that I wish to register under Great Britain Biocides Product Regulation (BPR), what format do I need to submit an application in?
First of all, it’s worth pointing out that as HSE no longer has access to R4BP, the EU systems, they will need to submit their application directly to us in HSE using our new forms and these forms are available for download from our website. So they download the form, complete all the details and email them back into us and when we receive the form, we then send out a secure upload link and it’s into that that they submit all your data and information. Don’t send the information and data in an email, wait for the secure link. So the sort of information which we would expect to see uploaded would be for example the Active Substance Competent Authority Report (CAR), the Product Authorisation Report (PAR), Summary of Product Characteristics (SPC) all terms which people will be familiar with as well as all the supporting data. Now for all those reports that I just listed there, we’ve got new templates for these as well on our website. We’d very much like applicants to use these new templates, unless they’ve already got the information in the EU versions of those templates. So in other words, if they’ve already got it in the EU version, we don’t expect them to repeat the process and fill out our templates. For new applications, please do use our new templates.
We also expect that they submit their data in IUCLID - we would prefer IUCLID 6. If they have got data in older IUCLID versions, submit them and we’ll see if we can access them and obviously if we can’t then we’ll get in touch and we’ll work out how to move forward.
Now we do realise that some of the data that was submitted a long time ago might never have been in IUCLID and that’s OK for resubmissions that we’ve talked about previously, but probably if we receive an application from an applicant and see no IUCLID, our automatic response almost will be – where is your IUCLID file so you just need to explain that you never had a IUCLID file in the first place.
There’s one final thing Mick that I’d just like to highlight as well – that we do need active and product reference lists. So these reference lists for both the active and the product applications must be on the GB Excel template – that’s one area where we aren’t able to be flexible.
OK, another question. I produce wood preservative products and wish to have my product on the market in the GB and NI. What do I need to do?
Well, applications for Northern Ireland, just like the GB applications, will be made directly to HSE using our new forms as I’ve just described and using the same submission methods. There is one exception however. That exception is if a company wants to apply for an EU Union authorisation so that would include Northern Ireland, and Union authorisations, these applications follow entirely the EU system so the applications are made using R4BP. HSE will have no involvement in the processing of Union applications.
We are still discussing some details with ECHA about mutual recognitions and we can confirm that if a company applies to the EU and wants the product to be mutually recognised into Northern Ireland, they can do that via what we call Mutual Recognition in sequence process. Now it’s not yet quite clear whether they can apply for Mutual Recognition in parallel into Northern Ireland and when we have a clearer picture on that, we will be able to confirm one way or another. But mutual recognitions for Northern Ireland again are submitted directly to HSE.
If I could Mick, I’d like to expand a bit here to talk about the establishment rules because it’s a really important area we’re getting a lot of questions about. So companies must adhere to the GB and the EU BPR establishment rules. That means that for the GB market the authorisation holder must be established in UK, but for the Northern Ireland market they must be established in the EU or Northern Ireland. For the GB market, there is a one year “period of grace” or transitional period ending on the 31st December this year for products already authorised. So if you’ve already got a product authorised you’ve got one year to make sure that your authorisation holder is indeed established in the UK. If an application had already been submitted into the EU programme, but a decision wasn’t made by the end of the transitional period, then companies would be resubmitting those applications to us and the establishment rule must be met by the time we’re ready to authorise that product.
Then the third option is, if you are submitting a completely new application to us under the new GB rules, then the establishment rule must be met at the time of making the application.
Just coming back to the Northern Ireland situation, the establishment rule should already be met now so for products that are already authorised, that establishment rule should already be in place. We are aware that this has come as quite a surprise to some so we are making no immediate plans to start revoking products where this obligation hasn’t been met, but we are asking companies to get on with this and to get this in place as soon as possible. For meeting the establishment obligation in GB or NI, companies may have to apply to us to make a change and if companies are familiar with applying for change applications, that’s exactly what they would do, again using our new forms as I just explained before.
And then just one last thing – sorry this has been a very long answer – companies can apply to HSE for authorisation in GB and Northern Ireland at the same time using the one application form if this route is relevant to both GB and Northern Ireland. We hope that will be a bit of a saving where there’s only one application needed, rather than two separate ones.
Ok Nicola, one last question for you. The active substance in my disinfectant product is due to renewal in the EU. Does HSE intend to conduct an independent review of active substances for biocides and if so, will the EU BPR deadline date for all active substances to be reviewed by 2023, be the same as GB BPR?
Right, of course GB is outside of the EU review programme and we will responsible for taking decisions on active substance nationally ourselves. So we will set up and undertake our own review programme for existing active substances. The timelines for the GB active substance programme haven’t yet been decided and we will consider these once we know the extent of the work for the GB review programme and we will know that once the resubmission deadlines have passed and these deadlines are the 31st of March and 29th June this year. So it’s only after those dates that we will have a feel of the extent of the work and we will start consider starting prioritising deadlines, approaches etc, etc. The good news is that in the meantime Article 89 of GB BPR continues to apply and this allows via resubmission products containing active substances supported in the review programme to continue to be made available while the active substances are still under review.
Great thanks Nicola. That was Dr. Nicola Gregg who’s Team Leader for Biocides Operational Policy in HSE’s Chemicals Registration Division.
Andrea Caitens is one of the Team Leaders and a Regulatory Scientist from the Chemicals Regulatory Division covering REACH, CLP and PIC, that’s Prior Informed Consent. Andrea good to speak to you again. I have an email here. I am a small business that imports chemical products from other countries. Will I have ‘importer status’ obligations when importing substances into GB from the EU/EEA?
The simple answer is yes. GB based companies will have importer obligations where they import substances or mixtures into Great Britain from the EU or the EEA. For some companies this could mean a significant change depending on what role they played in the EU to GB supply chains before the end of the transition period. For example, those who were previously considered to be GB based distributors or downstream users as they were supplied from companies within the EU or the EEA, will now be importers if the same supply arrangements continue. Such companies should ensure that they are aware of the obligations placed on them as importers via the GB CLP regulation and they should have sufficient competence to carry those duties out. I would just point out that the supply of qualifying goods from Northern Ireland businesses to Great Britain will not be deemed import under the terms of the Northern Ireland protocol though.
Thank you. We have another one for you here. I have multiple chemical products on the GB market which carry the same classification and labelling. Can I upload CLP notifications for these in bulk?
No is the simple answer. At the moment, the notification form doesn’t have a bulk upload facility as such any notifications do have to be submitted individually. However, we are looking at the development of the web form and the notification system as a whole and may make some changes to this in the future. It should however be noted that there are some exemptions from the duty to notify under GB CLP and this includes for substances that have been registered under REACH or which were notified to ECHA for inclusion in the Classification Labelling infantry before the end of the transition period. Full details about when the duty to notify applies in Great Britain and all these exemptions is provided on our website and I would urge anybody with the duty to notify to look at these details.
Thanks for that Andrea. Another query now. My company has chemical products on the market in both Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Can I have both a GB and EU address on the label to maintain common labelling across the UK?
Substances and mixtures placed on the market in Great Britain do have to be labelled in accordance with GB CLP and those placed on the market in Northern Ireland in accordance with EU CLP. Now the supplier details that are included on the labels should meet their respective requirements. That said it can be acceptable to include the contact details for both the GB and any EU based supplier on the label. Where this is appropriate the additional address would have to be included as supplemental labelling information in accordance with the requirements of Article 25(3) CLP and in addition, the inclusion of the additional supplier’s details mustn’t cast doubt on the validity of the information required by Article 17 of CLP or make it more difficult to identify that information.
The additional supplier should be part of the same supply chain and it would be expected that contacting that supplier would provide appropriate information on the chemical. Indeed, the supplier must be aware and willing to undertake that role. Ultimately, I would say it must be clear to the user where to go for additional advice about the substance or mixture concerned and that the contact they go to is able to provide the advice and the information that’s required.
Thanks for that Andrea. Another one now. I’ve already submitted a REACH registration for my product, do I still need to make a CLP notification?
No, as I mentioned earlier, if a substance is registered under REACH there is no requirement to submit a separate CLP notification also. As I again noted earlier, there are other exemptions from the require to notify in Great Britain, and I would urge all potential notifiers to consider the guidance provided on our website if they haven’t already done so.
Thank you Andrea. With me now is Rachel Brown who’s working on the Biocides and Pesticides Transformation Programme. Rachel, I’ve got a query for you here. My company is the authorisation holder for multiple fungicidal active substances. I understand that for renewal of active substances in the short term, only an administrative application will be needed. When will the full dossier be required for submission in Great Britain?
The GB legislation requires that the supplementary dossier be submitted 30 months before the expiry of the approval of the active substance. This is exactly the same as previously when we followed the EU legislation. However, we are going to seek to minimise the action required to meet this legislative requirement and we will provide some further information soon.
In circumstances where an EU MRL comes into force which is higher than the current GB MRL, will there be put in place a fast-track mechanism that will permit the GB MRL to be increased to match the increased EU MRL?
There is no fast-track mechanism for adopting an MRL from another jurisdiction as a GB MRL and that includes from the EU. There’s now an independent GB regime for the regulation of pesticides and we will be delivering our own decisions in GB. So that means a specific application will need to be submitted to HSE to support a new MRL or an import tolerance. If an application is submitted, standard processing times will be apply to the evaluation and that’s a 12 month processing time with an additional six months allowed to provide any additional information. However, HSE will take into account assessments made in other jurisdictions as part of our independent decision-making process so where an MRL is supported by an extrapolation based on data already evaluated, HSE will try to assess the applications in a shorter time frame, but it’s important to note that if the MRL is related to a new product authorisation, then the MRL can only be implemented once the authorisation has been granted. And for Import Tolerance applications, a proof of authorisation in the third country will also need to be provided.
I have a product which has authorised uses on crops to protect against weeds – herbicide – both in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Is it possible to submit only one dRR – Draft Registration Report – for Great Britain and Northern Ireland? A Core Dossier and specific UK addenda?
Where a product can be authorised to the same regulatory standards in both Great Britain and Northern Ireland, a common dRR may be submitted and that should enable the product to be submitted in both GB and NI. However, where the regulatory standards have diverged between GB and NI, for example if an active substance has been renewed in the EU and is applicable in NI but not in GB, then there may be different requirements that need to be met and where this is the case different submissions will be required.
Thank you Rachel. Before we hear from our next expert, I need to define a term used in the first question to him – Grandfathering. Grandfathering allows you to have continued access to the UK market. It’s where the relevant EU REACH registrations have been recognised under UK REACH. Alun Williams is the Lead for External Comms and Stakeholder Engagement in the Defra and Chemicals Team. Hi Alan, first question for you is – We are a GB importer of an EU REACH registered substance. Our EU supplier and EU REACH registration holder wants to grandfather the registration to UK REACH. Can this be done, if so how and when does this need to be completed by?
Thanks very much for the question Mick. I should clarify that it is not possible for EU based legal entities to have their EU registrations recognised under UK REACH.
So in the situation you described, if you’ve been importing a substance covered by the EU REACH registrations in the two years before the end of the implementation period, then it could be possible for you to use a downstream user import notification, colloquially known as a DUIN, that would allow you to suspend the registration duty for up to six years. UK REACH only applies in the UK therefore legal entities based in the EU and EEA can have no obligations under this regime. The grandfathering traditional provision is only available to GB based holders of EU REACH registrations, including GB based manufacturers and importers, GB based Only Representatives, ORs as they are also known, and GB based legal entities that held an EU REACH registration and transferred it to an EU based legal entity at any point after 29th March, 2017 which is of course the date the UK notified its intentions of leaving the EU and before the end of the transition period. If a GB based legal entity transferred their EU REACH registration to another GB based legal entity, only the GB based legal entity to whom the registration was transferred, will be entitled to have that registration recognised under UK REACH. The grandfathering provision is available until 120 days after the end of the transition period and the process will need to be completed by 30th April, 2021.
Thanks for that Alun. Another query now. I’m a small company which has multiple products which require REACH notifications. Can multiple notifications be made, or does each one have to be done separately? Can this be done using IUCLID files?
It’s a fair question. So within 300 days of the end of the transition period you need to use the Comply UK REACH service to indicate you are an existing downstream user or distributor. It’s at this point your UK REACH downstream user import notification number which was mentioned earlier, that will be issued to you. This only needs to be done once per legal entity and covers all substances that you wish to continue importing from the EU. You then need to populate the additional information spreadsheet template with information about the substances that you wish to continue importing. It should be noted that some information only has to be included, if it is available to you. This spreadsheet should list individually, all of the substances which you want to continue importing from the EU. One per line. Where a substance is included in the spreadsheet, it must continue at least one of the following identifiers. The substance name, the cast number, or the EC number. After that, you should send the completed spreadsheet to the Agency at: firstname.lastname@example.org You should include your legal entity name and DUIN notification number in the subject line of the email. It may be easier to fulfil some of the information requirements by attaching a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) to the email rather than including it in the spreadsheet, eg the Article 10(a) Part IV information pertaining to classification. Where an SDS for a substance is attached to the email along with the spreadsheet, the spreadsheet must also list that substance.
To return to another part of your question, there is no IUCLID template for DUINs and we are not accepting IUCLID files for the substances.
Final question for you Alun. My company predominantly produces polymers. What is the stance on polymers under REACH and are polymers exempt from REACH?
It’s a great question. So the exemption to the registration of polymers, which applies under Article 2 Part 9 of REACH, has been carried over into UK REACH. However, the monomers of other substances that form part of the polymer are subject to registration and will need to be registered. All GB based registrations which exist at the end of the transition period and all registrations held by GB entities at any point since 29th March, 2017, have been grandfathered. If the monomers and other reactants are supplied to you from within GB, then the registration duty will be higher in your supply chain. If you import the monomers or other reactants, then you may need to submit a registration or a DUIN.
Great Alun, thanks for that. Our guest now is the Director of the Chemicals Regulation Division in HSE, Richard Daniels. Richard can you just give our listeners are quick introduction? What is the nature of your job, what do you do?
I’ve been Director of the Chemicals Regulation Division since the 9th March, 2020, so it’s been a really busy year for me. I’ve got responsibility for all of the activities in the Division and the regimes to make sure that it operates perfectly well and that includes preparing for the situation we’re in now. Just by way of background, I joined HSE in 1992 as a Factory Inspector when I finished my PhD at Manchester University and I’ve done lots of things in HSE and before joining the Division, I had the privilege to be Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Explosives and headed up our National Explosives Unit, so quite a different job now.
Absolutely. Do you have any reflections as to how things have been going since the 1st of January?
From my perspective I think things have been going really well. If I reflect back on what on what we’ve got in place and what we’ve achieved – we have an independent, regulatory framework now for Great Britain for chemicals. That’s up and running and fit for purpose. That’s been a lot of hard work by people in the Division and with colleagues across the piste. And that independent system mirrors what people were used to when we were part of the EU. Some of the EU functions have been taken out because they no longer apply in our context but that means we’ve got immediate continuity for businesses on leaving which was really important for us.
The Northern Ireland Protocol means Northern Ireland will continue to follow the EU chemical regulations and HSE is close to finalising agreements to support Northern Ireland so we can do their functions on their behalf. And we’ve actually agreed revised arrangements with Scotland and Wales, so those are all in place now to support all of those devolved administrations.
In terms of support to business, we’ve put help desks in place for all of the regimes and we support the national telephone helpline. For the first two months we dealt with over 1400 contacts across all the regimes. We’ve also supplied and updated much of our web guidance on the new regimes that apply from the 1st of January and you may be interested – we’ve had over 390,000 views of the website over the first two months which I think is incredible. In terms of our eBulletins and promoting that guidance, that currently goes out to 240,000 stakeholders. The podcasts people are listening to now, we’ve got over 2,300 subscriptions and we delivered a number of seminars with Defra and joint events to get them ready for the 1st of January and that reached over 1750 businesses. They are available on HSE’s YouTube Channel if people didn’t take part in them. Over half of those actually hadn’t attended any previous involvement with HSE, so we got great penetration into new businesses. And lastly, we have recruited - we’ve filled over 110 posts in our new division in terms of the set up and we’ve got plans to recruit even further. So I think Mick, we’ve done a lot and it’s operating well.
Very impressive. Could you outline any immediate priorities and plans for the medium to longer term?
Thanks Mick. I think it is important to take a step back. We’ve heard a lot of immediate activity but at the heart of what we are about as a Division and where - as a Director I want to take us – at the heart of everything we do is about protecting people and protecting the environment through the safe and effective use of chemicals, supporting a sustainable future. So that’s what I really want to embed. We are about protection and supporting the future growth. Now where I want to get to is actually HSE, we act as a globally respected competent authority that supports the UK to prosper particularly in a post Brexit environment through science led regulation in the effective and safe use of chemicals and associated technology. So I’m aiming for us to be one of the best if not the best in the world, supporting what the UK needs. What does that mean in practice? Well, we need to ensure that HSE delivers are chemical regulation effectively in that independent UK environment.
I am really keen on improving services to both UK businesses and the public. I want to, where I can, drive down the costs of our regulatory delivery so what businesses have to pay to get the necessary approvals. I want to, where I can, speed up the time it takes to issue our permissions to business. I want to make sure that we have world class scientific and regulatory chemical expertise underpinning everything we do. And I want to make sure that HSE on behalf of the UK, we are engaging and influencing on the global stage in terms of chemical regulatory regimes because many of our businesses don’t just operate in the UK, they operate internationally and I think it’s important we are there to help and facilitate that trade.
In terms of communication, and part of the podcasts, I want to make sure that all of our guidance is clear and that we do respond to businesses needs, and we keep updating that. And I want to make sure that we are visible to our stakeholders, to our businesses etc, particularly small businesses and those that are operating in a research or innovation environment to make sure that as a regulator we are visible to them, we understand their needs and we are building for the future.
And podcasts like this we may well do more of in the future so I really would encourage people to watch this space and sign up to our bulletins.
I was wondering if you had any take home key messages for those who listen to these podcasts?
Sure, well I think firstly, and I hope it’s coming across that on behalf of HSE, I’d like to say that we are fully committed to our fundamental mission about protecting people and the environment and about improving the way that we do our regulation and how we provide those protections. And just to reassure people at this time, HSE as a regulator, I believe we have a very good track record of being a modern, proportionate regulator and where necessary we do operate with a degree of pragmatism. And we have got lots of experience in delivering new services and regimes. Whilst it may take us a little while on where I want to get the Division, bear with us. Really, it’s about being the best we can to support businesses that protect people and the environment.
In terms of other take home key messages – I would just like to thank people for engaging and working with HSE during the past year and for example listening to these podcasts. We really do value the feedback and input that we’ve had and we look very much forward to working with people as we develop going forward.
The UK Government is looking at future chemical strategy as part of the 25 Year Environment Plan and we will play a part in that and I think that at the heart of what we do now that independent regulatory decision making in the GB chemicals regime will allow HSE to regulate in a way that suits our economy.
So we’ll continue to support businesses, we’ll continue to provide guidance through the website, eBulletins, our helpdesks at stakeholder events. I would really encourage people to engage with us, give us feedback, and keep an eye out for future podcasts if we run them, sign up to our bulletin services because we are there to help and support you.
Great – thanks Richard. That was Richard Daniels, the Director of the Chemicals Regulation Division in HSE.
A big thanks to all our guests in today’s podcast… that’s Nicola Gregg, Rachel Brown, Andrea Caitens, Alun Williams and Richard Daniels.
Remember to log onto the HSE website for more information and if you still need some guidance then contact the helpdesks which cover all the regimes and we’ll get back to you and soon as possible.
The email addresses are included in the notes accompanying the podcast and of course on our website – www.hse.gov.uk
Thanks for listening and we wish you a happy and successful year.
Tuesday Feb 09, 2021
Tuesday Feb 09, 2021
After UK Transition: Working with Chemicals - Episode - 5 - CLP, REACH, PIC and Industry voices
In this instalment, we invite two industry voices to discuss changes to Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP), Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) and Prior Informed Consent (PIC) regulations. We also explore the actions they have taken to keep their businesses moving following the end of the UK transition period.
If you have any concerns regarding UK Transition and the changes to REACH and CLP regulations, contact HSE at the earliest opportunity via email@example.com.
If you have any questions regarding UK REACH enforcement, please contact the HSE at the earliest opportunity via CRDEnforcement@hse.gov.uk.
Good day and welcome to episode 6 of the HSE podcast with me Mick Ord. Over the past few months we’ve been discussing the key regulatory changes which have been implemented now that the UK has left the European Union. In the last episode we heard from businesses about how they had been preparing for changes to PPP (Plant Protection Products) and BPR – Biocides Products Regulations, in the run up to 2021.
This time round we’re looking at how people have been preparing for the changes to CLP, that’s the Classification, Labelling and Packaging of substances and mixtures, REACH – that’s the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & Restriction of Chemicals, and PIC – Prior Informed Consent, now known as GB PIC, which concerns the import and export of hazardous chemicals.
John Mackenzie, Head of Regulatory Affairs at Thomas Swan in County Durham, is back with us I’m pleased to say, as is a new guest on the podcast Dr Chris Howick from Inovyn Chlorvinyls in Runcorn. They produce mainly chlorine, caustic soda and chlorinated derivatives from plants in the UK and all over Europe. They employ a total of 750 people. I started by firstly asking Chris about the challenges his company faced in the run up to 2021 as they prepared for the new GB regulations.
Well I think it’s been an interesting journey from the very announcement of the referendum result. It caused a lot of discussion in the early days but I think bit by bit as regulations started to come in the UK and preparedness from the regulatory agencies in the EU progressed, it was a little easier to see exactly what we had to do. I think we had a few stop start processes with the no deal scenarios because we had to get ready to transfer REACH registrations and Biocides registrations across to a European entity or an ongoing European entity for the initial leaving dates and of course we had two or three leaving dates in the end and so we then had to cancel those transfers to bring them back to ensure that they didn’t transfer. So it’s been quite eventful in that respect but I think to a certain extent it didn’t matter whether there was a free trade deal or not because we were going to have to go through these actions anyway, so I think it gave us a little bit of extra time preparing it and I think now that that is done we can concentrate on the actions for ensuring that we are compliant with the new UK regimes where there’s a little bit of a grace period before the first sets of deadlines come up with that.
John Mackenzie, was that a similar scenario at your company, in terms of ensuring that your products are REACH compliant?
Indeed it was, yes very similar. I remember contacting some of our suppliers, the smaller guys especially and kind of like the rabbit in the headlights reaction from them like – what you mean we’ve got to change and do things that we didn’t do before, but now it’s gone from there to their saying yes, that’s fine no problem. So we’ve come on a huge journey from the referendum in 2016 wasn’t it – to now by the time this comes out – we will have left and it’s come from not knowing very much at all about what we are going to have to do to being pretty comfortable that we are on top of things. So yes, it’s been quite a journey.
Chris, for you in terms of Classification, Labelling and Packaging, CLP, any observations about how the transition period has gone in that particular section?
I think it’s been a little more straight forward, than the REACH situation, the advantage is although we now have two regulatory regimes, we manufacture at sites throughout the EU but we have a significant presence in the UK and so as far the UK manufacturing assets is concerned, we now have two regulatory regimes, one in the UK and one in the EU. The advantage is, of course, that we start with the same situation for classification and labelling because clearly on the 31 of December 2020, the UK had the European CLP regulation and this now transfers to the UK one. It remains to be seen whether there is differentiation and whether it happens and then to what extent it happens but there are some subtleties in that clearly when we supply companies in the EU from our UK site, those companies often become the importer and so they carry some additional responsibilities by importing material from outside of the EU into the EU and it works the other way round as well. If we import from one of our sites on the Continent, we now have to ensure that there’s reference to the UK or I should say GB classification regulation there as well and as I say at the moment, we start with the same classification so it’s a technical or administrative task, but we just need to see how that develops in the future and whether the UK will deviate or have a different opinion on a case by case or chemical by chemical basis.
And how did you know that the various actions you describe were required? Where did you go for that information?
Well, we’re very fortunate in that we play an active role in the Chemical Industries Association and also on the polymers side from the British Plastics Federation, so we’re active in those two trade associations for the chemicals and polymers side of our business. They’ve both been a very good source of information so the regular meetings and organisations of webinars with input from the UK regulators. On the European side actions, there has been some good, detailed guidance documents on the European Chemicals Agency website as well as the change in obligations from companies and the particular guidance on how you had to navigate through what’s termed the REACH IT, which is the Agency’s submission portal for chemicals as well as what the obligations for companies were for that, particularly on the REACH side rather than the CLP side. And then, of course, we did get the statutory instruments which of course are phenomenally difficult to read because they refer to the original European legislation. They only really highlight what changes by making them a UK regulation. I think companies, particularly on the continent that found the UK Statutory Instrument thinking they were going to find how they had to comply and it’s very, very difficult to read even if English is your first language. I think it’s the guidance that goes with it now and certainly the Government website has got a lot more information on and the HSE and Defra have done some very good roadshows over the last two or three years that have been very informative and I think recordings of those are still available on the internet if companies want to catch up with those. Those were particularly useful and I would say a lot more informative in the early stages than the initial guidance, but certainly we’ve now got some good documents from the UK regulators as well.
What about the situation in terms of the export and import of hazardous chemicals – PIC?
The Prior Informed Consent side has taken us a little longer to set the systems up because we weren’t sure exactly how the UK was going to do it but with materials transferring between our sites in the EU and our UK sites and vice versa, of course what would just be a seamless transportation before the end of the transition period, now has to be licensed and because the UK is now out, we did have to essentially apply for licenses before the end of the transition period in order to ensure that we had the necessary licenses for export. ECHA, the European Chemicals Agency work on a 35 day lead time for PIC applications, so those all had to be submitted well in time for the end of the year to ensure that they were in place.
Going the other way, the UK system is more based on seeking permission and authorisation via email. The UK has a system which is fit for purpose because of the smaller size of the market. I don’t think it’s gone for this extensive IT system that there is on the European side, but I think we’ll see how that goes in the HSE and the Competent Authorities in the UK, I think we’ll keep that under review as to whether it needs to be expanded, but again we had to set those up to be ready for the exports to go in January. We are confident that things are in place and we’ll review it as the New Year progresses.
John, PIC doesn’t necessarily apply to you does it? What about CLP and REACH – have you got anything to add?
In terms of preparations we’ve made do you mean? Technically, we are a medium sized enterprise and we don’t have any footprint in the EU, we don’t have an office or another site so what we had to do was to set up a relationship with what’s called an Only Representative or OR for short in the EU so we’ve done that with a German company and it’s a consultants again and what’s going to have to happen is – we transfer our REACH registrations to them first and they then accept them (in the New Year) and that will be our registrations transferred into the EU and then we’ll have to grandfather those into the UK system so it will end up with is REACH registrations in the UK and the EU. Of course we will only need those in the EU for chemicals that we supply (or products we supply) into the EU.
But we’ll end up with two sets of registrations instead of one and also potentially, two sets of costs instead of one because every time you set up a REACH registration, you have to buy into the dossier of data that exists and it can be very expensive, tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of pounds or euros, so potentially you will have to pay twice. Now I don’t expect that our costs are going to be doubled, but they will be significantly greater than they were before.
I was just going to ask you John, whether you think that that situation is replicated among other businesses of a similar size to yours?
I’m sure it will be. Chris can comment on this as well. I am sure that every single chemical company who wants to supply into the EU will have increased costs because of the fact that we are having to deal in two jurisdictions now, the UK and the EU.
Chris, do you just want to add to what John said there?
Yes, I think there clearly will be increased costs on what’s termed the sweat equity side which is the amount of time and effort that companies have to put in to actually doing all the administrative side work and submission of dossiers etc. I think industry is generally trying to come up with a pragmatic solution on the data sharing issues. Companies set up consortia between themselves to initially develop the EU REACH dossier and that was all based on sharing and each company in the same volume band essentially paying the same amount of money. We are hoping that some pragmatism will come out of that with their approach to granting data to UK companies registering for UK REACH, but it will be a sort of consortium by consortium approach. Some companies may take a different view, but clearly companies may have to pay for data access whereas at the moment they don’t have to and I think that the biggest, most significant change by the introduction of the UK system is companies that are today buying from suppliers in the EU, sort of change from being a downstream user in the EU system, to an importer in the UK system. So, as a downstream user in the EU system there’s no obligation to register but as an importer there is an obligation to register if your supplier hasn’t registered or isn’t going to register so I think that remains something of an unknown situation. We don’t know how many companies will be caught by that, we just need to see how many EU manufacturers are prepared to register their substances on the UK market and under the UK system.
I think that’s a really good point. I think the biggest impact in the chemicals industry is on those people who are distributors who have never had to register their chemicals up to now, but now they will have to every time they import from the EU. One of the things that we did as a company was we did a survey of all our suppliers globally, every single one. We sent them out some information a couple of years ago, just so they were aware of what was going to be going on and to ask them a few questions and I got some positive answers. The bigger companies that you would expect, knew what they were doing, were fine with it, it was the smaller companies who didn’t realise that they were going to have to now register for their imports -and maybe import relatively small amounts - … they didn’t realise they were going to have to register them now. That’s a couple of years ago and now it’s turned around so we went from about half a dozen, maybe a few more than that, were on what we call the critical list of raw materials that we buy from suppliers, now down to just one, which is a fairly small, minor component in something, and so there has been a big shift in knowledge and information in the industry, so you know it’s changed a lot in the last few years I think.
It’s clearly getting better I think but the concern is maybe on the SME side where particularly the import I think of chemical mixtures and this particular one in the polymers sector where quite a common ingredient would be what’s termed as either a stabilizer master batch or a pigment master batch which sort of blends of various stabilisers, anti-oxidants, pigments and a lot of companies would all buy these additives in one formulation, in a formulated product, you know sort of Blue 29 or something and if they are buying those from an EU supplier, in theory each substance in that mixture, will need to be registered or you would need to know it’s been registered and for the supplier of that material, if the ingredient isn’t hazardous, it’s not classified as hazardous, there is no sort of compulsion to declare exactly what the components are so these materials are being imported with good safety data sheets for the mixture, but it’s very difficult to ascertain what the chemical components are. As an importer, you have to do a downstream notification and then a registration. It’s a particular challenge, but I think companies certainly have welcomed the change in the timeline of registrations now to this post two year, four year, six year periods, because particularly those SME’s now have got some time to resolve these issues with their supply chain and I think that’s been very welcome.
What actions would you recommend Chris for those businesses who don’t feel prepared and maybe fall into the SME category that you’ve just been talking about?
I think for SME companies in the UK it’s just - have a think and check with your suppliers. Just try and understand what it is you are importing - are you importing a mixture or a pure substance? And the most important question probably I think that you would need to know ideally in advance of the 27th of October, but certainly by the 27th of October, is whether your supplier is registering that or is somewhere up the supply chain? Are the substances in that mixture, or is that substance, going to be notified and registered under the UK system? So, there’s a deadline for notifications for those importers by the 27th of October, 2021 . That’s not a registration, but it’s a notification and ideally check with your suppliers before then that you know that you don’t have the registration obligation, it’s all being taken care of further up the supply chain. I think that’s the first and probably perhaps the most important aspect and just engage with your supply chain – just say what are you preparing to do? Is the substance grandfathered into UK REACH or if not is it going to be notified and registered under UK REACH either by your supplier or your supplier’s supplier. Just ensure that that information is flowing up and down the supply chains.
John, have you got anything to add to that?
No, that’s really well covered by Chris. If anything I would say check with your trade bodies, get some advice from them, see what they say. They’ll no doubt have information ready to send to you if you need it and check the gov.uk website because they’ve got really good check lists, they’re really rough and ready but they are really good to point you in the right direction. Of course, the HSE website has got good information on it as well.
A big thank you to John Mackenzie and Chris Howick for their thoughts and observations which I hope you found useful. If there are still any areas where you feel you need some more information then log onto the HSE website which is regularly updated – there is a link in the notes accompanying this podcast. Remember too that you can contact our helpdesk directly. Just email your question to EUfirstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll respond as soon as possible. Again, the email is in the notes that come with the podcast.
And please subscribe to our eBulletin newsletters too. You do this by popping your email address into the subscription boxes which you’ll find on the HSE website. We’ll keep you informed of news and updates as they affect the chemicals industry.
So many thanks for joining us, good luck with your business for this year. From me, Mick Ord and the rest of the team….it’s good bye until next time.
Thursday Jan 28, 2021
Thursday Jan 28, 2021
After UK Transition: Working with Chemicals - Episode - 4 - PPP, BPR and Industry voices
In this instalment, we invite two industry voices to discuss changes to Biocidal (BPR) and Plant Protection Product (PPP) regulations and explore the actions they have taken to keep their businesses moving following the end of the UK transition period.
It should be noted that the views of any guests on HSE podcasts/recordings do not necessarily reflect those of the HSE or the wider government. Moreover, further website guidance was released in the time following the recording of this podcast. For the most up to date guidance relating to EU Exit, visit www.hse.gov.uk/brexit/chemicals-brexit-guidance.htm or email EUemail@example.com
Welcome to the HSE podcast with me Mick Ord. I hope you’re well and looking forward to happy and prosperous year.
In the past few episodes we’ve been hearing from some of HSEs and DEFRA’s own EU regulatory experts about many of the changes that businesses face, now that the UK has left the European Union, and how they should prepare for it, but for this episode and the next one, it’ll be a bit different.
We’ll be hearing from the businesses themselves about what the past year has been like for them as they try to plan for life outside of the EU. The views of people whose businesses are being affected on the ground provide much food for thought and I’m confident that some of the things that they’ve observed will be ringing true for many listeners to this podcast. What they say will also hopefully help to steer you in the right direction as you maybe tackle some of the hurdles that they’ve been negotiating.
In today’s podcast we’ll be hearing from John Mackenzie, the Regulatory Affairs Manager at the long-established chemicals manufacturer Thomas Swan. They’re a family owned and run business with a UK base in Consett in County Durham, directly employing around 170 people with other bases in the USA and China. Also joining us is James Clovis, MD of London-based Gemini Agriculture – a company which specialises in the supply of agrochemicals to the UK market. James founded the company five years ago.
In this episode I’ve been talking to John and James mainly about how they‘ve been preparing for the changes in the regulations pertaining to PPP – Plant Protection Products – and BPR - Biocides Products Regulations. First of all I asked John what it was like for his company navigating the transition period last year.
In the beginning it was pretty difficult really because there was so little information. I have to say that one of the immediate impacts of the vote to leave the EU was actually positive for us because the exchange rates changed and we were able to export more because we became more competitive in some markets and so actually it was a help in the beginning but the regulatory burden is going to be massive because of having to deal with two regulatory authorities – ECHA in Europe and HSE in the UK, but navigating it we just had to find whatever information was out there and initially there wasn’t much.
We’ve have kept in close touch with the Chemical Industries Association, the CIA and they’ve been brilliant with keeping us up to date. We’ve had regular meetings with them and they’ve organised meetings with the Government Departments BEIS, (Government department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) Defra, HSE and so on, that’s been our main way of navigating it and finding our way through, up until more recently when more information has come out from Government departments. The impact is mainly going to be dealing with two regulatory authorities like I said. The regulatory burden is going to be increased in a department where there are only two of us working on regulatory issues. It’s going to mean quite a lot more work for us and therefore more cost.
I think John’s nailed it there on the regulatory side. We’re quite lucky in Gemini because we primarily sell only in the UK. I think from an import and export point of view that’s where it’s going to impact us the most. A lot of the technical material comes from India and China which we can’t manufacture within Europe and within the UK and I think it’s going to have a fundamental impact on how we bring products in, you know what processes and what systems we have to work with and also how the parallels go and the extension. The extension of the active materials for three years is going to be very beneficial in one way. It kind of gives the UK a bit of longevity in certain products but it’s also going to have a delay because ECHA was dealing with a lot of the Annexe I and Annexe II renewals and I think what’s going to happen now is that we’ll see delays and I think even for generics as well as the multi nationals, we are kind of locked out of those chemicals whether we can access them from a competitive point of view or just from a multinational trying to modify any of their registrations, they’re going to be locked out for an extended period of time.
And how can you prepare for something like that?
Well it’s interesting. I think that from an import/export perspective, I think a lot of people have brought product into the UK whether it’s technical material or finished goods. I think we’ve seen an increase in product being brought in and stored. I think we’ve seen an increase in utilisation of certain Toll Manufacturers, there’s an awful lot of those being locked up very early on now. So I think primarily there’s a lot being brought into the country and is sat in warehouses and I think there are other preparations being made, but it’s trying to be informed as you possibly can and myself and Gemini – we’ve spent a lot of time working with forwarders and the importers trying to make sure that any documentation or approvals that they need, have been submitted well in advance.
For Northern Ireland we’ve applied for an EORI number extension, the X number I believe it is now and so we are trying to do everything we can but again, we don’t know all the answers yet so it’s trying to prepare as best we can when something pops up, you’ve got to jump on it as quick as you can.
John what actions have you taken or at least started to take to ensure your products are biocide compliant?
The main thing we’ve done, well a couple of things really, but one of the big things is that we’ve recently transferred – there’s a thing called the Article 95 list which is a list of active biocides that are allowed to be used in the EU, and so because we are out of the EU now, we had to transfer our registration on that list over onto our representative in the EU. Now of course being a small company, we had to use a consultant to do that and of course they don’t come cheap, so they are now going to become our representative in the EU working on our behalf and so we are now listed still on the Article 95 list, but with a representative in place rather than have a direct registration ourselves.
The other thing we’ve done though, as a company we’ve decided as a mitigation against the potential border friction that will no doubt occur, we decided that we would apply for a thing called AEO which is Authorised Economic Operator, something which is much more common in Germany and some other European companies but not so common here. I think the last count I saw was about 700 companies registered in the UK whereas there are about 10,000 or so in Germany. Anyway, we did that, it was a lot of work but it means that now we are registered on that scheme, that should help with our paperwork, it should reduce cross border friction between UK and EU, but also within the EU itself so it means that the red tape is cut out to a large extent and means we can deal more directly with our customers in the EU.
And James what about you on that score – what actions have you started to take?
What we’ve basically done is, all our registrations are UK Article 34 registrations, we have a couple of parallel imports as well. So as it stands most of ours will be compliant to the new system and we won’t need to do anything.
I think REACH is a slightly different kettle of fish and I think moving forward it’s going to take – it depends how you approach it – I think there’s going to be quite a lot of work for certain companies to make sure that all of the intermediates or components are registered in time. We’ve started working with the supplier of the intermediates and also the Toll Manufacturers as well to make sure everything is REACH compliant when we know exactly what we need to do going forward for that.
We’ll be touching on REACH in the next episode. James what about PPP compliancy?
As I alluded to earlier, all of our products are already registered with CRD/HSE and we expect that there won’t be much change going forward to the existing registrations. Going forward for new registrations though, that’s going to be interesting to see if there’s much change at all. One, to the documentation or requirements but also I think, as I mentioned earlier, to see what happens with the delays on the Annexe I, Annexe II renewals. From actions there’s not much we can do now, we are basically sat in a holding pattern for certain products waiting for the protection to come down so we can apply for registrations. There’s not a whole lot on the action side that we need to prepare for.
So it really is the information that you need isn’t it? That’s what you’re looking for and then you can take your actions. So far, where have you been getting your information from, John you mentioned about the trade body before. Do you visit the HSE webpages for example?
Yes, I have done. I have to say until recently at least, the HSE webpages weren’t terribly helpful, but they’ve now improved that dramatically. Recently, I was having a look at them and they’ve made a big change in the information which is available especially on REACH. Biocide, it’s getting there. We’ve also used a lot of other sources too. I find that the Government websites are pretty good now, there’s a lot of information coming up on gov.uk/transition, but the main source for our information has been our trade body the CIA, at least in the initial stages. Latterly, more like HSE and gov.uk.
That’s good to know. What about you James?
Very similar to what John’s just mentioned. We do use the CRD/HSE website for updates. We do also use the Government emails and updates which are sent through as John mentioned. And again we use the Crop Protection Association and they’ve disseminated quite a lot of information basically over the last two or three years with most of the changes as well as being involved in a lot of the work.
John, and in fact you too James, where would you go to find more information?
I don’t know about John but I think primarily the internet is the No. 1 source for most of the information we’ve tried to find, but we’ve got contacts in CRD as well and without obviously getting anyone in trouble there’s a lot of information you can actually request, so just by talking to some of the CRD members, you do get a good feel for the way things are going and they can also relate it back to specifics that you’re going though. So I think direct contact with CRD, the Government and emails.
And you, John?
We’ve got a couple of different sources that we’ve got subscriptions to that we pay for information from. Organisations like Chemical Watch, Kerona, (European Regulatory Consultants) people like that have provided us with information as well. James is absolutely right, the best place is go to the internet and search on Google and ask a question and see what it comes up with. HSE has been good as well though. If you have a specific question for them, they’ve got a helpdesk and I’ve asked them a few questions over the past couple of years and they’ve been really helpful actually and pretty prompt in replying.
And what actions would you recommend John for businesses which don’t feel prepared?
If you don’t feel prepared, I would advise, go to the Government website, like I said before, gov.uk/transition they have a checklist which will provide you with a series of questions. It will ask you a question and whether you say yes or no, it will give you different answers and take you different places and checklists to make sure you’re covered with everything. We’ve done this two or three times where every time you do it again, it comes up with something else. It might not be related to biocides we are talking about just now, it might be if you are employing European nationals. One thing that we’ve found, we’ve got one or two people from Italy, Spain and France working here and they need to consider the documentation that they need to have in place to continue to work in the UK. There are grace periods. I think that the European nationals are allowed up until sometime in June to submit whatever documentation they need, but they still need to do it.
James have you got any handy hints for people listening who feel - Oh blimey, I’m not prepared?
I think the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is probably the best advice, but don’t panic! I think it depends on the size of the company. I know big companies who’ve been scenario planning for years on the impact of Brexit. From my side what I would say is, try to find out as much information as you can and I think make contact with trade associations – the CPA has done multiple things for our side of the fence, not only discussing things with Government officials and looking at presentations to the Expert Committee on approval process and things like that. Most trades associations will be on spot with this so I would contact those but I would also talk to other companies. You’ll have competitors, you’ll have partners in the industry and try and find out what they’re doing.
James I really like your reference to the Hitchhikers Guide. I’ve got written down here in big, friendly letters – don’t panic, the world will not come to an end, the UK will continue to exist, we’ll have new circumstances to adapt to and that we will adapt and we will survive, but it will just look different.
That’s a good point to end this interview on John. John Mackenzie and James Clovis thanks a lot for joining us today that was really, really useful.
In a couple of minutes time, I’ll be giving out some really important information not only about the HSE website, but about the HSE’s eBulletin service. If you have a particular question you need answering, email us and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
Many, many thanks to John Mackenzie and James Clovis for their time today and for sharing their views on the past few months, their hopes, fears and advice for the future. I hope you found it useful.
There were quite a few mentions in the interview of the HSE website which is being regularly updated with news and information on PPP and BPR not to mention the other regimes which have been affected by the changes. We’ve updated our guidance on the chemicals industry – this is available on our website which is linked to the notes on this podcast. Remember too to subscribe to our e-Bulletin newsletters – you pop your email address into the subscription box which appears on the pages of the website.
And if you want to contact our helpdesk with a question about the new regulations for the chemicals industry then email them at EUfirstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll respond as soon as possible. Again this email is in the notes which accompany the podcast.
We won’t actually be saying goodbye to John Mackenzie as he’ll be joining us in our next podcast where he’ll be discussing – along with another business guest, the changes to CLP, REACH and PiC regulations.
The guest in question is Chris Howick, from Inovyn who, according to their website, manufacture a wide range of chemicals that are used as raw materials in almost every industrial process. They specialise in Chlorvinyls and have sites in the UK and throughout Europe.
So join me Mick Ord for what will hopefully be an enlightening and useful discussion with our two industry voices….take care and we’ll hopefully catch up with you very soon.
Tuesday Dec 22, 2020
Tuesday Dec 22, 2020
Tuesday Dec 22, 2020
After UK Transition: Working with Chemicals - Episode - 3 - CLP, REACH & PIC
In this episode, we are joined by Alun Williams, Lead for External Comms and Stakeholder Engagement from the Chemicals team at DEFRA and Andrea Caitens, CLP, PIC and REACG Transition Programme Lead, Future Readiness at HSE.
We discuss the key differences between EU to UK REACH, the roles and responsibilities in UK REACH actions that people and businesses need to take in relation to CLP and PIC.
For any queries, get in touch via REACH & CLP: email@example.com PIC: firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to the Health and Safety Executive podcast with me Mick Ord. I hope I find you in good health. This is the fourth in our series of podcasts designed to guide you and your business safely through some of the regulatory changes which are coming in at the end of the transition period.
Over the past few weeks we’ve looked at BPR and PPP and this week we’re looking at a total of Three Regimes in the one episode – REACH, CLP and PIC.
REACH is of course the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals ; CLP is Chemicals Classification, Labelling and Packaging and PIC is Prior Informed Consent for the export and import of hazardous chemicals, all three of which will change to varying degrees at the end of December 2020. So whether your company does business in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or England we’ve some important information to relay to you.
After we’ve heard from our two experts, I’ll be giving out some important info about where you can find out more on what we’re talking about in this episode and also how you subscribe to our free eBulletin service so you’re kept in touch with news and developments as they happen.
For this episode, I’ve been speaking to Andrea Caitens a regulatory scientist from the HSE’s Chemicals Regulatory Division. She’s also the CLP Lead in the Transitions Programme Team. We’ll be hearing from Andrea shortly about the changes to CLP and PIC, but first from Alun Williams who’s the Lead for External Comms and Stakeholder Engagement from the Chemicals Team at DEFRA. He’s been telling us about the changes to the UK REACH regulations.
Alun, you say on your website that the key principles for REACH are retained – so what are these principles?
The regulatory framework that we are putting in place for UK REACH will retain both the fundamental approach of REACH with its aims of ensuring a high level protection of human health and its key principles of REACH.
These include the “no data, no market” principle, the “last resort” principle on animal testing, access to information for workers and the precautionary principle as well as the provision for Only Representatives otherwise known as O.Rs.
What are you doing to mitigate costs to business?
Well, we are keeping the transition to UK REACH as simple as possible, avoiding change for change’s sake. For example, in building the Comply with UK REACH IT system, we have made sure it will work very much like the ECHA owned REACH-IT, including the same software requirements and many of the processes that businesses have been using and understand.
We have put in place “grace period of provisions” of “Grandfathering” and “Downstream User Import Notifications” to minimize the costs for businesses and maintain market access to both the EU and UK market.
Following concerns raised about the current timelines for supplying data to the UK regulator, we have decided to extend these deadlines which would enable industry to mitigate costs without reducing important environmental and health protections.
Will UK business still be able to access the EU market?
Yes, GB-based businesses wanting to place a chemical on the EU market will need to get that chemical registered with the European Chemicals Agency or ECHA. That registration must be held by an organisation based in the EU.
GB companies wishing to expert chemicals into the EU/Northern Ireland after the end of the transition period would need to rely on their EU/Northern Ireland based customers to register as importers or they would need to transfer their registrations to an EU/Northern Ireland based legal entity or Only Representive. ECHA has published guidelines on this.
What changes Alun, are being made to the data submission deadlines?
We have extended the existing data submission deadlines, set in legislation, as follows.
The initial notification stage for UK downstream users to submit Downstream User Import Notifications or DUINs, as they are colloquially known, has been extended from 180 to 300 days from 1st January, 2021. As a result, UK downstream users will have the opportunity to assess how existing EU REACH registrants have met the 120 day deadline and use it to inform their own process.
We have also extended the deadline for completing a full registration supported by full data packages to 2, 4 and 6 years from the end of the initial 300 day period. The deadline for final submission of data underpinning the full registration is dependent on tonnage bands and hazard profile, with the highest tonnage bands and most hazardous chemicals first.
Will Northern Ireland be part of UK REACH?
So, for the duration of the Protocol, Northern Ireland will remain part of the EU regulatory systems for chemicals to ensure frictionless movement of goods within the island of Ireland, whilst remaining within the UK customs territory. We are also offering a streamlined process for Northern Ireland chemicals to be notified with UK REACH to facilitate trade from Northern Ireland to Great Britain. Northern Ireland businesses can notify direct should they wish to do so; otherwise the responsibility will lie with their GB customer.
When will companies be able to access the appropriate forms on the website?
These will be available when the Comply with UK REACH IT system goes live from the end of the transition period.
What will be the functionality of the UK REACH IT system?
The Comply with UK REACH IT system will replicate key functions of the EU REACH IT system to provide continuity for GB businesses. At the point of launch, businesses will be able to use the service to validate existing GB held EU REACH registrations so Grandfathering, as we discussed earlier. They’ll be able to submit Downstream User Import Notifications. You’ll be able to submit a new substance registration. You’ll also be able to submit new product and process orientated research and development – PPORD – notifications.
Is the information they need to supply to the HSE different to the previous requirements in either quantity or nature of content?
It’s important that people consider what their new roles are within UK REACH. So for example a lot of the information will be exactly the same, but perhaps their roles within the process have changed. So for example if you were previously a downstream user you may now have importer obligations under UK REACH. We strongly recommend that you go to the HSE website and read the guidance there as to identify what information you’ll need to supply.
Andrea, CLP as we know refers to the Classification, Labelling and Packaging. In 2021 after transition the legislation changes to GB CLP – what are the main changes which will happen?
Businesses based in Great Britain that place chemicals on the GB market and that’s both substances and mixtures, will have to comply with the GB CLP regulation and this will also apply to those suppliers based in Northern Ireland who supply directly to the GB market.
However, it’s important to know that the majority of CLP Regulation remains unchanged and the main duties to classify – that is to identify the intrinsic hazardous properties and communicate information about those hazards through labelling and to securely and safely package those chemicals will all remain the same.
From the 1st of January, 2021, Great Britain mandatory classification and labelling or GB MCL, will replace the EU harmonised classification labelling system and Great Britain will make its own decisions about mandatory classification and labelling. All of the existing EU harmonised classification and labelling at the end of the transition period, will be kept as GB mandatory classification and labelling and GB suppliers will need to comply with MCL in the same way as they did with EU harmonised classification and labelling before.
Those substances with a GB mandatory classification and labelling will be included in the GB MCL list and this will be hosted and managed by HSE as the GB CLP Agency. GB-based suppliers supplying in the Great Britain market with chemicals and Northern Ireland based suppliers who supply directly to the GB market will deal with HSE as the GB CLP Agency instead of the European Chemicals Agency or ECHA and this will include when notifying substances to the GB notifications database and for submission of requests to use alternative chemical names.
There will be new requirements on GB-based companies currently identified as downstream users and distributors that is those who are currently supplied by businesses in the EU/EEA. These GB-based downstream users and distributors will become importers under GB CLP after the end of the transition period if the same supply arrangements continue and as such they will have to comply with all the importer’s duties and obligations.
Further information is provided in the scenario table which is currently available on the HSE website.
Will this effect businesses exporting to the EU/EEA?
In order for a GB- based exporter to supply chemicals to the EU/EEA, they must identify and importer. There is no allowance in either the EU or GB CLP Regulations for a third party to act on behalf of the importer and the importer must be directly involved in the supply chain.
The responsibility for the classification, the labelling and the packaging of chemicals exported to the EU from Great Britain will rest with the EU-based importer. So GB-based exporters are encouraged to work with the importers to agree what information they might be able to provide to help the importer comply with the EU CLP requirements. So for example this might include what information appears on the CLP hazard label such as the inclusion of a GB supplier’s contact details in the supplemental information section. But ultimately, the decision over what appears on an EU CLP label, is a matter for the EU and individual member states.
What will the GB Mandatory Classification and Labelling (MCL) system look like?
So from 1st January, 2021, the Great Britain mandatory classification and labelling system will replace the EU harmonised classification and labelling system and Great Britain will make its own decisions about mandatory classification and labelling.
The GB MCL will itself have two strands. Firstly, HSE, as the GB CLP Agency, will consider all published opinions from ECHA’s Risk Assessment Committee or the RAC on EU harmonised classification and labelling. HSE will then prepare its own Agency Opinion and will recommend to ministers whether or not Great Britain should align with the RAC Opinion. The minister will decide, with the consent of the Devolved Administrations, whether or not to give legal effect to the new or revised GB MCL entry.
Alternatively, HSE, the Devolved Administrations or GB-based industry, in certain circumstances, can propose mandatory classification and labelling directly. Following public consultation, HSE will then prepare an Agency Opinion on the proposal and make a recommendation to ministers. The minister, again with the consent of the Devolved Administrations, will decide whether or not to give a new or revised mandatory classification and labelling legal effect. Further information on the new GB MCL system will be made available on HSE’s classification webpages in due course.
Will GB-based companies still have to notify the classification and labelling of the substances placed on the GB market under GB CLP?
Yes, GB-based manufacturers and importers will still need to submit notifications but these will be made to HSE rather than to ECHA. Also existing GB notifications which are already listed in the Classification and Labelling Inventory, will be kept in place and re-notification in Great Britain will not be necessary. Other exemptions will be available too to help reduce the need to send in notifications and these will be explained on the HSE’s CLP webpages and again, further guidance on submitting notifications to the GB notification database will be available on HSE’s Chemical classification webpages.
How will the UN Globally Harmonised System of the classification and labelling of chemicals (UN GHS) be adopted and how will that impact on CLP requirements for GB businesses?
On 1st January, 2021, Great Britain will effectively adopt the GHS in the same way as the EU so adopting all of the same GHS building blocks – the hazard classes and hazard categories – that the EU has adopted in the EU CLP Regulation. The UK will continue to play an important role in the UN Sub-Committee of Experts for the Globally Harmonised System and will continue to work to make improvements to the GHS to ensure high levels of protection for people and the environment. After 1st January, 2021, Great Britain will have more flexibility when deciding whether to continue to adopt the GHS in the same way as the EU. Any proposals to adopt the GHS differently will be discussed with stakeholders and will be given legal effect through domestic regulations set out in statutory instruments, thereby providing industry time to make any necessary changes.
Andrea, how long after 31st January, 2020 will Great Britain businesses have to update their labels?
There is no transitional period after 1st January 2021, for businesses to update their labels to comply with the requirements of GB CLP. From 1st January, 2021, businesses must classify, label and package the substances and mixtures according to the GB CLP Regulation before placing them on the GB market. Labels must be in English but additional languages will also be permitted. In addition, the label will require the address of either the GB supplier or the Northern Ireland based supplier supplying directly to the GB market. However, businesses will not have to recall substances or mixtures already placed legally on the GB market to update their labels provided the following conditions are met.
Firstly, the substances or mixtures have already been places on the GB market before 1st January, 2021 and the supplier can provide proof that the substance or mixture was placed on the market before that date and where required, the hazard labelling is in accordance with the GB mandatory classification and labelling (MCL) in the GB mandatory classification labelling list published on the HSE website.
Now we are going to talk about PIC – Prior Informed Consent. What are the main changes to the new GB PIC regime compared to the old EU system, ePIC?
GB-based companies will no longer have access to ePIC and new GB procedures for notifying exports will be in place ahead of 1st January, 2021. Forms and guidance will be available on HSE’s website. There will be a GB PIC list setting out which chemicals are subject to the regulation. When the new requirements come into force on January 1st, 2021, the chemicals in the GB PIC list will be the same as those in Annexes I and V of the EU PIC Regulation.
How will the end of the transition period impact on businesses involved in the export and import of PIC listed chemicals?
HSE as the GB PIC Designated National Authority (DNA) will need to be notified of the export of PIC listed chemicals from Great Britain. This will include exporting them to EU countries or moving them to Northern Ireland. Businesses will need to notify the first export in any calendar year of a listed chemical to any importing country at least 35 days before the intended date of export. A PIC export notification for export to the EU or supply to Northern Ireland will cover export of that chemical to any EU country and movement to Northern Ireland. GB-based companies will no longer have access to ePIC and new GB procedures for notifying exports will be in place ahead of 1st January, 2021 and guidance and forms will be made available on HSE’s website.
How does the new PIC regime affect Northern Ireland businesses in terms of importing and exporting PIC chemicals?
The EU PIC regulation will still apply to Northern Ireland and so PIC chemicals can be sent from Northern Ireland to any EU member state without needing to be notified. Northern Ireland based companies exporting PIC chemicals to countries outside the EU will need to comply with the requirements of the EU PIC Regulation.
For movement of PIC chemicals from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, businesses will only need to comply with those requirements of EU PIC that implement the Rotterdam Convention. For example, the movement of a chemical listed in Part 2 of Annex I to the EU PIC Regulation from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, will need to be notified by the exporter but will not require explicit consent from the Great Britain authorities.
Will GB companies need to seek consent for exporting chemicals to EU countries?
The chemicals which require consent before export, including to the EU, HSE will contact the importing country’s Designated National Authority on behalf of the exporter. Where consent is given by the Designated National Authority of an EU member state, it would be expected to cover export of that chemical to any EU country or to Northern Ireland.
Will the information now required by the HSE be any different to that required by ePIC in the old days – both in terms of information about chemicals and also quantities?
The information requirements will be the same as before, but GB-based exporters will no longer have access to ePIC and will need to use the new GB procedures for notifying exports.
What are the timescales and deadlines for businesses who want to export a new PIC-listed chemical?
They will need to notify the first export in any calendar year of a listed chemical to any importing country at least 35 days before the intended date of export.
Alun, could my roles and responsibilities have changed as a result of moving from EU REACH to UK REACH for example could I have become a downstream user or is there anything I have to do as a result of this?
Well the “Downstream User Import Notification” provision is intended to enable existing supply chains to continue unbroken and to provide time for businesses to comply with their new obligations as an importer under UK REACH. The measure will therefore apply only to existing GB downstream users or distributors under EU REACH who were at any time in the two year period before 1st January, 2021, already a downstream user or distributor under EU REACH, established in Great Britain, in relation to a substance and who did not have an EU REACH registration. So from the 1st January, 2021, GB companies wishing to register new chemicals for the GB market would need to register those with HSE using the Comply with UK REACH IT system.
So Alun, what actions do people and businesses need to take in relation to REACH?
Well let’s talk again about “Grandfathering.” So Grandfathering will only apply to all registrations including intermediates held by GB-based entities including importers and Only Representatives based in Great Britain and to sole, lead, or joint registrants that exist at the end of the transition period.
All GB-based registrations that exist at the end of the transition period and all registrations held by GB entities at any point since March, 2017, will be grandfathered. So that means if a UK REACH registration was transferred to an EU, EEA or Northern Ireland based entity in the run up to the end of the transition period, it will still be grandfathered into UK REACH.
Grandfathering will not apply to registrations held by entities established outside of Great Britain regardless of whether they are part of a group of companies which also has a presence in Great Britain. Those registrations would not be grandfathered unless they had been transferred to a GB entity before the end of the transitional period.
Grandfathered registrations will be legally recognised by UK REACH from Day 1. Businesses then need to take further action to confirm their registration within 120 days. But if you are an importer or an exporter, UK REACH will apply in the same was as EU REACH where registration obligations rest with the importer. You are a distributor under REACH and CLP, if you source a chemical substance or a mixture within GB, store it and then place it on the market for someone else… also under your brand, without changing its composition in any way. For example, retailers and wholesalers are distributors under REACH and CLP.
You are not a distributor if you buy chemicals outside GB and place them straight onto the market GB. In that instance, you’re an importer. So therefore, if you buy chemicals within GB and mix them with other chemicals, or dilute them or refill containers with them, before supplying them to others, in that instance, you’re a downstream user. So for exporters, any GB-based entities currently holding EU REACH registrations would need to transfer their registrations to an EEA-based entity, such as an affiliate or an O.R. in order to continue exporting substances or mixtures to the EU, EEA market. Alternatively, GB companies could support their EU, EEA-based importers to ensure that they comply with EU REACH. Further details on how to achieve this are on the ECHA website.
And finally, if you are a downstream user, you may have acquired import obligations under UK REACH as a previous downstream user with a substance covered, by an EU-based registration and in this instance you are able to make use of the notification provision to ensure continuity of supply. This notification will be required by the Comply with UK REACH IT system within 300 days of the end of the transition period.
For more information you should visit the HSE Brexit pages on UK REACH and if you’d like any further information, you should sign up to the HSE bulletins via the transition service webpages.
Andrea, what actions do people and businesses need to take in relation to CLP if they are supplying chemicals?
As I noted earlier, the majority of the CLP regulation remains the same so that includes the key duties to classify, to label and to package chemicals before they are placed on the market in Great Britain. Therefore, for many suppliers that are already in full compliance with EU CLP now, there’ll be no need to take immediate action unless something changes regarding the classification.
However, some suppliers roles will change particularly those who are identified as downstream users or distributors before the end of the transition period because they obtained substances or mixtures from EU-based suppliers.
These parties will become importers if these supply chains continue after the 1st January, 2021. Therefore, businesses placing chemicals on the GB market, should confirm what their role or roles within the supply chain will be from the 1st January, 2021 and they should identify their duties under GB CLP accordingly. Further information to assist suppliers with this is provided in the scenario table on our website and to keep up to date with any further information, please sign up to our eBulletin service via the transition webpages.
The suppliers will, of course, need to make any necessary changes to their labels for example to include the suppliers contact details or to update those details as soon as possible. However, as I mentioned earlier, businesses won’t have to recall substances or mixtures already legally placed on the GB market to update their labels provided that the substances or mixtures have already been placed on the GB market before the 1st January, 2021 and the supplier can provide proof of this and the hazard labelling is in accordance with the GB mandatory classification labelling which will be provided in the GB MCL list published on the HSE website.
I would encourage businesses supplying to or from the EU or the EEA to speak to their counterparts to ensure that everything is in place to facilitate continuing supply chains or to create new ones.
Andrea, you mentioned supplier’s roles changing. What do businesses need to consider across the roles?
When considering actions, roles and responsibilities, suppliers need to be aware that from 1st January, 2021, Mandatory Classification and Labelling will replace EU Harmonised Classification and Labelling and that substances with a GB Mandatory Classification and Labelling will be included in the GB Mandatory Classified Labelling list and that list will be provided on the HSE website. Also, GB-based businesses supplying the GB market with chemicals whether they are substances or mixtures and Northern Ireland based suppliers who supply directly to the Great Britain market, will need to deal with HSE as the GB CLP Agency instead of the European Chemicals Agency. Full information on GB CLP and any new arrangements and processes will be made available on our website.
To keep up to date with any further information, people should sign up to our eBulletin services via the transition webpages.
So – everything you need to know about the changes to REACH, CLP and PIC which come into effect at various times from 1st January, 2021.
A very big thank you to Andrea Caitens and Alun Williams for joining us today and helping us to map out the road ahead for businesses in the chemicals sector. Remember, what Andrea and Alun have been talking about is in written form on the HSE website. The address is: www.hse.gov.uk/brexit<http://www.hse.gov.uk/brexit>
If you have any queries or hit a brick wall then you can always email us on:
email@example.com and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. And of course there’s our eBulletin service. Just pop your email address into the subscription box which appears on the pages of the HSE website and we’ll keep you informed on the latest news and advice.
Thanks for joining us for today’s podcast and remember to subscribe to this Podcast too – we’d welcome any feedback. Bye for now from me Mick Ord. Do join me again soon.
Monday Dec 21, 2020
Monday Dec 21, 2020
Monday Dec 21, 2020
After UK Transition: Working with Chemicals - Episode 2 - BPR
In this episode, we are joined by two HSE experts in Dr Nicola Gregg - Biocides Operational Policy Team Leader and Dr Pierre Cruse - International Chemicals Unit Team Leader.
We discuss the changes that will have the greatest impact on businesses following the end of the UK Transition period, how to get an active substance approved in both the EU and GB and how companies can get on the GB version of Article 95.
Welcome to the latest HSE Podcast with me, Mick Ord. This month, with the help of our resident experts, we’ll be guiding you through the new Biocidal Products Regulations – that’s BPR to you and me - and how the new regulatory framework will affect your business as we leave the EU and the transition period comes to an end.
We’ll be finding out what you should be doing now and will be required to do in the future under the new GB regulations and how that will affect companies in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Now we’ve left the EU, many of the functions currently being carried out by Europe will soon be transferred to Great Britain but certain EU functions have been removed and we’ll be highlighting these areas and explaining what you need to do to make sure you comply with the new arrangements. Over the next half hour or so we’ll be addressing many of the issues that are concerning businesses and pointing you in the right direction - so without further ado, let me introduce you to 2 people whose knowledge of the new BPR framework is second to none. Dr Nicola Gregg and Dr Pierre Cruse are both from the HSE. Nicola is team leader for Biocides Operational Policy in the HSE’s Chemicals Regulation Directorate and Pierre is team leader at the HSE’s International Chemicals Unit – his team is responsible for developing Government policy on biocides and also the CLP regulations – that‘s the classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures.
I’ll start with you if I may Pierre - Will the new GB framework for Biocides be the same as the EU framework?
I think the answer is in some ways yes and some ways no. From the 1st January next year, 2021, Great Britain is going to have its own independent regulatory framework for biocidal products. It’s going to reflect the current EU framework, the EU Biocidal Products Regulation, but they are going to operate independently of each other. Essentially, the rules and standards are going to be pretty much the same, but some elements to the framework won’t exist, basically those bits that refer to EU processes and institutions that we’ll no longer be dealing in the national system.
So in what areas will it be different?
The Great Britain Biocidal Products Regulations – BPR – we call it a lift and shift of the EU’s BPR. What that means essentially is that we copied it into domestic law without any policy changes. The only bits that have changed are those which wouldn’t operate correctly in the new Great Britain context, as I say, the bits that refer to European Institutions, the European Chemicals Agency and the European Commission are examples of that. So for example ECHA, functions that previously sat with ECHA are now going to be transferred to Great Britain bodies, where we are still doing them, and commission decisions which used to be taken by the European Commission, they are now going to be taken by the Secretary of State with consent from Ministers in the Devolved Administrations.
So what changes will have the greatest impact on businesses?
I’ll just run through some of the biggest changes and impacts for businesses. Perhaps the main one is if a company wants an authorisation in both the EU and Great Britain after the end of the transition period, they’ll need to apply separately to both the EU through ECHA and Great Britain. That also means that future European active substance approvals and product authorisations, won’t be valid in Great Britain and vice versa.
A similar thing applies to active substance approval. If you want an active substance approval in Great Britain at the end of the transitional period, you need to apply separately from any application you may be making in the EU. The other thing is that authorisation processes for biocidal products that used to apply across European member states, won’t apply any more to Great Britain. That means there’ll be no more mutual recognition of product authorisations between the EU and Great Britain. EU Union authorisations won’t be valid in Great Britain after the end of the transition period and also you won’t be able to use a simplified authorisation that you had in European Union to put a product on the market in Great Britain after the transition period either.
Another key thing that businesses need to be aware of is that HSE won’t be using ECHA’s IT tools, the main one being the register of biocidal products R4BP3 after the end of the transition period.
And we won’t have access to ECHA’s databases anymore and what that means is that applications for biocidal product authorisations have to be sent directly to HSE, not using R4BP3 and using the HSE application forms that we’re going to put in place. The other thing related to this is that for active substances and products to be supported in Great Britain – if you want to make an application, all the relevant data will need to be resubmitted to HSE, even if you’ve previously submitted it to ECHA. There are transitional arrangements in the legislation that will tell you exactly when you need to do this and we’ll explain that later in this Podcast.
Thanks Pierre. Over to Nicola then. When will the new application forms and process details be live on the HSE website Nicola and will they be different to the old forms?
Well we are completely rewriting all of the information on our website including the application forms and all of this will be published by the 1st of January. Application forms and data will be submitted to HSE, not via R4BP as Pierre has just said but instead by HSE’s upload link and this is a secure, cloud-based platform for sharing files. Because of the lift and shift that Pierre has also mentioned, the information required is pretty much the same as companies are used to and the data requirements are also the same.
Will Great Britain have its own review programme?
Yes, after the first of January, 2021 of course, GB will be responsible for taking our own decisions on active substance approvals at our own national level and because of this, we will establish our own review programme of existing active substances. It’s important to note that Article 89 of both the EU BPR and the new GB BPR will continue to apply. This means that as happens now, products containing active substances which are within the scope of the GB review programme can continue to be made available on the GB market while those active substances in the products are still under the review.
Other rules for participation and withdrawal from the review programme will also continue to be similar to what people are used to under the EU review programme such as things like taking over role of participant.
Another issue worth pointing out here is that the priorities and the timelines of the review programme, in the GB review programme, have not yet been determined and we won’t be in a position to make those determinations until we know what the total support of active substances within GB actually is.
Thanks for that Nicola. Well, after the transition period HSE will no longer have access to the ECHA databases. What are the implications for businesses here in the UK?
That’s correct. After the 1st January, 2021 GB will not be permitted to access confidential information held by ECHA. This means that any data or information that companies previously submitted via these processes will no longer be available to us here in HSE for us to refer to, so the data will need to be resubmitted to us so that we can continue operating our own national regulatory regime. There are deadlines for resubmission of the data and these are set out on our new GB BPR transitional arrangements and these are legally binding. Now, HSE appreciates that the requirement for applicants to resubmit their data packages may result in an increased cost to businesses and so we are not going to charge for the work that’s necessary in the resubmitting of the data and I am talking about just the actual resubmitting and all that’s entailed around that, not the eventual evaluation of the data by us.
Will the data required by the HSE be the same as that required by ECHA?
Yes it will. The technical data requirements which must be addressed to support both the approval of an active substance and the authorisation of a biocidal product under a GB regime, will be the same as those specified under the EU regime.
What’s the situation for companies which already hold the biocidal product authorisation in the UK under EU BPR – will that still be legal in the UK after the transition period?
Yes it will. Any biocidal product authorisations and also any active substance approvals that were in place before 1st January, will remain valid in Great Britain all the way through to their expiry date whatever that was. However, there are a couple of additional requirements which authorisation holders for biocidal products need to be aware of. The first is that they need to be established in the UK within a year of the end of the transition period that’s by the 31st of December 2022 to continue holding that authorisation and the second is that they need to obtain active substances from suppliers on the GB Article 95 list. There are also situations where they may have to resubmit the data supporting their products and some examples of this are if they applied for a change to that product or if they are renewing a product or if HSE needs the data. For example we might need it if we want that to support a “same” biocidal application.
And what about companies who have submitted a biocidal products application to the HSE and are still awaiting authorisation on 31st December this year? Do they need to do anything?
Yes they do. As Nicola explained earlier, they’ll need to resubmit their application including all the necessary supporting information to HSE. And also, an important point any company in this situation needs to be aware of is, if they are relying on letters of access to data which is owned by someone else, they also have to make sure that the data owner resubmits their data dossier to HSE and the reason for this is simply that we also need this information to evaluate their application.
There are two deadlines that people need to be aware of for resubmitting applications and data. The first is the 31st March, 2021 which is 90 days after the end of the transition period and that applies if the UK had been the lead or reference member state for their application under the EU BPR. The second is 29th June, 2021 if the UK had not been the lead or reference member state and that’s 180 days after the end of the transition period.
Similarly, Pierre, what about companies who are awaiting a BPR approval of an active substance, what do they need to do?
The same basically applies. They need to resubmit their applications and data to HSE with the same deadlines, so 31st March, 2021 if the UK had been the lead or Evaluating Competent Authority for that active substance, or 29th June, 2021 if the UK had not been the lead. It’s less often the case for active substances if an applicant is relying on letters of access to data owned by someone else. The same is true for products, the data owner needs to submit their data by the same date, so we can use it in the evaluation.
Nicola, a GB version of the Article 95 list is being created. How do companies get on this list?
A GB version of the Article 95 list will be established after the 1st January, 2021 and it will be operating in the same way as the current EU list. Now businesses don’t need to do anything to get on the GB list in January, but there are requirements for them to stay on the list. Businesses already on the EU list will, on the 1st January be automatically included in GB’s list. However, to stay on that list, businesses will need to submit supporting information to us here at the Health and Safety Executive. This is the same information as was submitted to ECHA the European Chemicals Agency. So for example it might have been an active substance dossier or a letter of access or even a mixture of both of those. If a company is submitting a letter of access, the data owner also needs to submit the dossier and data by the same date as Pierre has already outlined previously.
There’s another requirement as well. Businesses also have to ensure they are established in the UK, so these requirements, both to be established in the UK and to submit the data and the dossier, have to be met within two years of the end of the transitional period. So a much longer deadline than the deadlines Pierre has just mentioned.
So Pierre, the new GB framework applies only to GB so how does a company get a biocidal product authorised in Northern Ireland?
I think to explain this I first need to give a bit of background to what’s happened in relation to Northern Ireland and why it’s different to what’s happening in Great Britain.
So to explain this, the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU that was signed when the UK left the EU included an agreement known as the Northern Ireland Protocol. This was designed as a practical solution to avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland, but it also ensured that the UK, including Northern Ireland, could leave the EU as a whole. The Northern Ireland Protocol included a number of special provisions which apply only in Northern Ireland from 1st January, 2021 and not the rest of the UK. And it’s worth mentioning here that the Northern Ireland Protocol isn’t a permanent arrangement.
It was designed to solve a particular set of problems and it can only do this if it has the consent of the people of Northern Ireland, so it’s in place for an initial four years until 2024 and then there’ll be a vote to determine whether the main provisions will continue to apply, but until then it applies until the end of the transition period. So one of the main provisions in the Northern Ireland Protocol is that unlike Great Britain, Northern Ireland is going to continue operating under certain specified pieces of European Union law and one of the pieces that’s listed in the Protocol is the EU Biocidal Products Regulation. So EU BPR will continue to apply in Northern Ireland after the end of the transition period. This means that a company, if it wants an authorisation in Northern Ireland, will apply in a similar way to how it does to a European member state. But instead it will apply to the Northern Ireland Competent Authority. The Northern Ireland Competent Authority is HSE Northern Ireland. However, in practice HSE is going to be supporting HSE Northern Ireland in this role. This means, in fact, you’ll submit your application to HSE and we’ll evaluate it on behalf of HSE Northern Ireland.
At the moment, the exact process for applying to Northern Ireland for example which IT system you have to use, is still being confirmed and we will publish information and let people know the answer to this as soon as we know it.
Under the Protocol, Northern Ireland acts a bit like a European member state in some respects, but it doesn’t have all the rights of a European member state. For Biocides, an example is, that it can’t act as a reference or lead member state on behalf of other European member states for biocidal products. So what this means is if you have an authorisation which was granted by Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Competent Authority, this can’t be mutually recognised in other parts of the EU. So if a company wants to market a product only in Northern Ireland, then it needs to specifically apply to the Northern Ireland Competent Authority.
Another thing that companies need to be aware of is the requirements on where they need to be established to have an authorisation for Northern Ireland.
So if companies are operating under EU BPR, they’ll probably be aware that it says that authorisation holders need to be established in the European Union and under the Northern Ireland Protocol, this is extended to cover Northern Ireland so, if you want an authorisation in Northern Ireland, you have to be established in either Northern Ireland or another country in the European Union.
An important thing to note about this is that a company only established in Great Britain, can’t hold an authorisation in Northern Ireland under these arrangements. So companies supplying to Northern Ireland from Great Britain, need to make sure that they comply with this requirement and it applies immediately after the transition period ends, there’s no transitional arrangement for that. So it’s an important thing to note if you’re supplying to Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland companies may also wish to check any Great Britain suppliers that they have who are supplying biocidal products to them are aware of this requirement and take the relevant steps to comply with it. It’s worth noting as well that companies which are established in Northern Ireland can also apply for authorisations in Great Britain. The requirement in Great Britain is that you have to be established in the UK and that includes Northern Ireland, it’s just that it doesn’t work the other way so that if you are in Great Britain only, you can’t have an authorisation in Northern Ireland unless you are also established in Northern Ireland or the European Union.
That’s quite complex, but I hope that I’ve said enough to explain it for companies who are affected by this.
I’m sure you have. Does that mean though that Northern Ireland cannot be the lead for active substance approvals either?
Yes, that’s right but approvals are granted in the EU, will be valid in Northern Ireland. Essentially, Northern Ireland would be still part of the EU system and decisions taken in the EU about active substances will continue to apply in Northern Ireland.
Can authorisations granted in Northern Ireland, either in Northern Ireland only or via a Union or Mutual Recognition Application, be mutually recognised by Great Britain?
No they can’t, not as such. However, one of the special provisions in the Northern Ireland Protocol is that it makes clear that nothing will prevent businesses in Northern Ireland enjoying what it calls ‘unfettered access’ to the rest of the UK market and the Government has committed to ensuring that Northern Ireland businesses have this unfettered access to Great Britain.
What it means is essentially that there’s going to be no declarations, tariffs, new regulatory checks or customs checks or additional approvals for Northern Ireland businesses who wish to place goods on the Great Britain market.
So unfettered access removes the barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Does this mean that as long as a product is authorized in Northern Ireland under the EU BPR, it can be freely supplied in Great Britain?
Yes, but not entirely. There’s a very small number of goods, including biocides, which can pose a particularly high risk to consumers, to humans, to animals and the environment and they are subject to stricter regulation. We are calling these highly regulated goods, so to protect consumers across the UK, if you are a Northern Ireland business placing highly regulated goods on the GB market, you must first provide some basic information to the GB authorities. However, as Pierre has just said, you won’t need any additional approval or authorisation.
So for biocides, we’ve put this into practice through a notification system. Under this notification system, companies will notify HSE of their intention to supply a product on the GB market and as part of this notification system, they have to provide HSE with the same information that they supplied to an EU member state or to the Northern Ireland Competent Authority in support of their original application. They also must submit a copy of their Northern Ireland authorisation. It might not be a full authorisation, it might be that Northern Ireland granted some other permit. Once the information has been submitted, the product may be made available on the market in Great Britain after 90 days so there is a lag period.
Now there is an exception - if HSE raises any objections which we might do only on very limited grounds – so for example we might identify that the product is unsafe or it’s not sufficiently effective.
If HSE does identify any concerns, then we may request additional information and if this happens, the 90 day period will be suspended for up to another 90 days and during those extra 90 days, that allows companies time to submit further information to HSE and once HSE has got that extra information, there’s then another 90 day period for HSE to consider that extra information. However, the product does not have to be authorised again in GB and there will be no charge. Now there are conditions within the notifications system, and this is really important. Companies - if they are applying for unfettered access - have to be established in Northern Ireland. The active substance must be approved in GB and the active substance source in the product, must be on the GB Article 95 list.
If anyone is worried about the various timescales and deadlines we’ve been referring to – what should they do - who should they contact?
Well, the timescales and deadlines are all on our website, but if any company is concerned that they cannot meet those deadlines, we would encourage them to contact us at the earliest opportunity and they can do this via our enquiries email that’s: firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ll be giving that email out again before the end of this Podcast. Dr. Nicola Gregg and Dr. Pierre Cruse – thanks a lot for joining us.
So there you go. Everything you wanted to know about Biocides Product Regulation but were afraid to ask. And certainly it’s important that you DO ask if there are elements you don’t understand about the changes.
You can email us at email@example.com
You can also, as I’ve mentioned many times before in this podcast series, log onto the website – www.hse.gov.uk/brexit
Remember as well to subscribe to our ebulletin service so you can stay in touch with updates and developments as they affect the sector in which your business is involved. Just pop your email into the subscription box you’ll find on the pages of the HSE website.
A huge thanks you Dr Nicola Gregg and Dr Pierre Cruse our guest experts today. Stay subscribed to the podcast, take care and you’ll be hearing from us again very soon. Thanks for listening.