Changes to Health and Safety Guidance for Care Homes

01 July 2013

Practice Area: Healthcare
Sector: Healthcare

Ashleigh2

HSE (GB) is currently consulting in relation to proposed changes to its guidance for Health and Safety in Care Homes (HSG 220) which was first published in 2001.  These changes are part of HSE’s continued move to simplify health and safety compliance, making it easier for businesses of all sizes to understand what they need to do to achieve legal compliance.

Whilst it is not a legal requirement to follow guidance, and you may comply with legislation by other means, it may be challenging to prove that you have done enough.  It is therefore important that the guidance for this sector is sensible, user-friendly and achievable.  You may also wish to submit your opinion on whether it addresses all of the key risks appropriately.  Care home providers still have time to participate in the outcome of this important consultation as it remains open until 5 July 2013 (see http://webcommunities.hse.gov.uk/connect.ti/carehomes/).

HSG 220 aims to assist dutyholders in managing the key risks that may present in the care home environment and is principally aimed at owners and managers of care homes as well as employees and safety representatives. 

Whilst the guidance is applicable in Northern Ireland, some adaption may be required in relation to certain areas, such as the section on the reporting of incidents under RIDDOR, where Northern Irish law currently differs to that of the updated regime in England and Wales.

The proposed new Guidance offers a completely new format with each section broadly setting out: what law applies; what you need to do; key questions you should ask yourself; and where you can obtain further information. 

Examples of focus areas include manual handling, equipment safety and falls from windows and balconies.  The latter is an area that has previously attracted criminal prosecution by HSE, including a recent case in Northern Ireland. 

Another section which has been significantly updated is Chapter 1 “Managing health and safety”. The proposed Guidance incorporates key elements of HSE’s recently updated HSG 65 “Managing for Health and Safety” which adopts the “Plan/Do/Check/Act” management model through which managers should lead to encourage a positive safety culture.  Guidance cannot account for every type of risk in the workplace, particularly where vulnerable residents are concerned.  Therefore it is the responsibility of the Home and its employees to ensure there is a sufficiently integrated system for managing risks and that the system is operating effectively.

Breaches of health and safety law can attract the potential for unlimited fines and/or imprisonment for up to two years in the more serious of cases.  There appears to be a national trend towards the imposition of tougher penalties, with Sentencing Guidelines suggesting that fines in health and safety prosecutions should: “seldom be less than £100,000 and may be measured in hundreds of thousands of pounds or more” where a breach is found to have caused a death.  Where a corporate manslaughter offence is established, the guidance states: “The appropriate fine will seldom be less than £500,000 and may be measured in millions of pounds”.  

Given the stringent sanctions available, the proposed introduction of updated guidance in this sector is a good opportunity for care home operators and managers to review their health and safety systems to ensure they are meeting the required standard.

Carson McDowell has many years experience of providing health and safety compliance advice and assisting companies facing investigation and/or prosecution for health and safety breaches.  Please contact Ashleigh Birkett if you would like to discuss any matters arising from this article in more detail.

Ashleigh Birkett

Associate

+44 (0) 28 9024 4951

[email protected]  

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