HSE agrees shock RIDDOR reversal

According to a report in Health and Safety Bulletin (HSB), the HSE has dropped its proposal that employers and other duty holders should no longer have to report occupational diseases. The surprise reversal came after the HSE Board discussed officials’ revised proposals on reforms to the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrence Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR) at a closed meeting on 30 January.

The board also agreed to retain the duty to report non-fatal work-related accidents to members of the public, again reversing a proposal set out in the same autumn 2012 consultation document. The reforms to major injuries, dangerous occurrences and self-employed workers will, however, go ahead. Duties to report fatal injuries to workers and the public, and over seven-day injuries to workers, remain unchanged. The reforms arise from the HSE’s “fundamental review” of RIDDOR, which was recommended by the Young Review in 2010 and endorsed by the Löfstedt Review in 2011.

An HSE spokesperson told HSB that the board “had taken note of the consultation responses and was pleased to see a revised proposal from HSE that now addressed some of the concerns.” The board will advise the minister to accept the modified package; subject to approval, the revisions are scheduled to come into force on 1 October.

The HSE had proposed removing the requirement to report occupational diseases except where they result from exposure to biological agents. Following concerns raised at consultation, it has now decided employers will have to report occupational cancers, diseases attributable to biological agents and six short-latency diseases (hand-arm vibration syndrome, dermatitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, severe cramp of the arm, tendonitis and occupational asthma, which account for 90% of all ill-health RIDDOR reports to the HSE).

The HSE had also proposed removing the requirement to report work-related non-fatal injuries to members of the public who are taken to hospital for treatment. In the light of consultation, however, the HSE will retain this requirement, although it will make the reporting stipulations and threshold clearer through improved guidance.

The other reforms proposed in the consultative document will go ahead:

  • the list of major injuries will be simplified and reduced to 10 types so that it is more closely aligned with the HSE’s incident selection criteria;
  • the list of 25 dangerous occurrences will be simplified and reduced to 20 so that they focus on higher-risk sectors and activities; and
  • self-employed workers will no longer have to report injuries to themselves.

Secrecy undermines credibility

The fact that the HSE’s board and officials have responded so positively to stakeholders’ concerns about the RIDDOR reforms is to be welcomed. It is regrettable, however, that the RIDDOR discussion was held in private and that it took until 6 March for the HSE to agree to publish the paper that the board considered. The HSE also published the minutes of the board’s 30 January open meeting in early March, but they contain only the briefest of summaries of the RIDDOR decisions.

The same closed meeting also took important decisions approving the exemption of some selfemployed workers from health and safety law, new Regulations on medical sharps and the retention of the docks ACoP. The HSE has variously justified the closed discussions to HSB on the grounds that they involved advice to ministers and legal advice, and also because the HSE wanted to avoid potential public disputes. Past open board meetings show the first two of these excuses are simply invalid, while the third is undesirable at a time of such government hostility to health and safety regulation. All closed discussions do is undermine the credibility of the HSE as a regulator and of the board as the tripartite representatives of stakeholder interests, and give the impression government intimidation works.