2016 proved to be an interesting year on a number of fronts. Some aspects will have short or no discernible effect and others will not only shape parts of 2017, but the years well beyond. But what of those that will affect our organisations and buildings for the next twelve months? Here are some you may want to consider/review - with or without a mince pie!

1. What will Brexit mean for health and safety?

Whether Article 50 is triggered in March 2017 remains to be seen, but the debate around what it means for UK health and safety legislation has already started. Our white paper on the subject outlines some of the issues.

2. Longer sentences - will the trends established by the new sentencing guidelines endure?

In a word, yes. As recently as last month we blogged on the trends that have already been noted, and these are set to continue. Our forthcoming seminar "Mind the Gap II" which will look for a legal insurance and practitioner's perspective as to changes the guidelines are having. 

3. Wellbeing - a health obsession?

The development of social sustainability and increased awareness of well being will start to shape more the health side of health and safety. As well as aspects such as stress, mental health and physical wellbeing, indoor environment quality (IEQ) - air quality, water quality and occupancy comfort - and their links to not just health but productivity will come more to the fore. As with the other strands of sustainability and CSR, having a truly independent, verified means of collecting, interpreting and reporting the data will be needed.

The 2016 BIFM Sustainability in FM survey put implementing wellbeing measures 3rd on the list of major areas for consideration over the next 10 years. And the British Council of Offices has also published a briefing note "Health and well-being and offices -If you're not well you're sick!"

How are you measuring your IEQ?

4. Who is responsible - a question for the responsible person?

Whether it is asbestos fire or Legionella, we are finding increasingly the notion of who the duty holder and responsible person (or is the competent person, nominated responsible person, appointed responsible person or even the appointed competent person - they all exist) is can be confused to the extent where suppliers are offering themselves as the duty holder.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have for a long time now subscribed to "those who create risks manage them responsibly…". To my mind this is where the duty holding lies and in all three areas above the primary duty is not with a 3rd party.

As for responsible person, again this is commonly "devolved" to someone again working for a 3rd party. Paragraph 48 of the Legionella Approved Code of Practice (L8) contains the wording "The appointed competent person or persons should have sufficient authority, competence and knowledge of the installation to ensure that all operational procedures are carried out in a timely and effective manner."  To what extent does a contractor have "authority" over any installation?

With all encompassing contracts now the vogue it is critical that all responsibilities are clearly allocated at the right level and understood. The HSE quote above continues "‚Ķ and understand that failure to manage significant risks responsibly is likely to lead to robust action". The liability where something goes wrong potentially lies with both the contractor and the dutyholder (whether knowing or unknowing) as will any resulting action taken.