The HSE recently completed its post-implementation review (PIR) (75-page / 1.1MB PDF) of the 2013 Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR 13). Given the HSE's recent emphasis on work-related health as well as safety, it is unsurprising to see that the PIR recommends that the list of reportable occupational diseases be expanded "such that it appropriately reflects the breadth of occupational diseases of interest to HSE".
What is RIDDOR 13?
Implemented under the 1974 Health and Safety at Work etc Act (HSWA), RIDDOR 13 requires employers and other people in control of work premises to report and keep records of:
- work-related accidents which cause death;
- work-related accidents which cause certain serious injuries ('reportable injuries');
- diagnoses cases of certain occupational diseases; and
- certain incidents with the potential to cause harm ('dangerous occurrences').
RIDDOR 13 substantially modified its predecessor regulations, with the intention of implementing the recommendations set out in Professor Löfstedt's independent review of health and safety of 2011. Among the changes it introduced were:
- simplifying and shortening the list of 'specified injuries' to workers sustained as a result of a work-related accident;
- clarifying and shortening the list of reportable dangerous occurrences;
- simplifying and significantly shortening the list of reportable ill-health conditions in workers, replacing 47 specified ill-health conditions with eight categories of work-related diseases;
- simplifying the list of dangerous occurrences within the rail sector; and
- introducing a specific stand-alone regulation for non-fatal injuries to non-workers as a result of a work-related accident.
Although RIDDOR does not contain any offences, contravention of any of its provisions – or any requirement or prohibition imposed under it – is an offence under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and so will carry the penalties set out in the Sentencing Council's definitive guideline for health and safety etc. offences.
Fines imposed under the guideline are increasingly hefty as focus shifts to making sure a real message is sent to those who ignore or adopt a cavalier attitude to their health and safety obligations, regardless of actual harm caused. In particular, fines should be "sufficiently substantial to have a real economic impact which will bring home to both management and shareholders the need to comply with health and safety legislation". Organisations must be aware of their obligations under RIDDOR and ensure prompt compliance.
What did the HSE PIR find?
The shortened list of reportable ill-health conditions in workers (occupational diseases) introduced by RIDDOR 13 has caused some concern to HSE, as a number of work-related diseases of specific interest to the regulator from both a regulatory and scientific perspective no longer need to be reported. The result has been that individuals with potentially life-threatening illness, including pneumoconiosis (e.g. silicosis) and poisoning due to certain chemical exposures, no longer come to the attention of the HSE.
According to the HSE, the resulting lack of investigation and, where appropriate, enforcement "could potentially mean that workers are left at significant risk as a result of workplace exposures". It also "reduces the scope for research into these work-related diseases by HSE Science Division and therefore contributions made to the evidence base to improve worker health". The PIR therefore recommends that the list of reportable occupational diseases be expanded.
By contrast, the PIR noted an over-reporting of injuries to non-workers, recommending a narrowing of the scope of such reportable incidents.
Are the PIR recommendations likely to be adopted?
The PIR's recommendations have been welcomed by health professionals, many of whom felt that Löfsted's recommendations "complicated the actual picture on occupational illness incidence and created problems for practitioners who need to collect relevant disease data in order to assign risk categorisations and implement workplace disease reduction strategies".
The likelihood is that the recommendation on expanding reportable occupational diseases will be actioned by amending the relevant regulation, regulation 8, to make specific reference to a schedule which will be appended to RIDDOR, listing occupational diseases that need to be reported.
Kevin Bridges and Sean Elson are health and safety law experts at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com.