HSE confirm Management Regulations ACOP to be withdrawn

HSE confirm Management Regulations ACOP to be withdrawn

In a response to a recent consultation exercise, the Health and Safety Executive have confirmed that the Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) for the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, will be withdrawn. 

Will this measure result in greater clarity or a watering down of important requirements?

The decision to withdraw the ACOP has been made, despite a slim majority of respondents indicating that they are opposed to this move.

When asked the question “Do you agree with the proposal to withdraw this ACOP and replace it with a suite of guidance?” 48% said that they agree, with 52% saying no.

Concerns had been raised during the consultation, that the removal of the approved code which covers the key requirement to risk assess, would create an impression that the law had changed.  The largest number of objections related to the change in status, with respondents claiming that ACOP status makes people more likely to comply with the regulations, as it has ‘more weight’ than guidance.

In their analysis of consultation responses, the HSE states:

“There has been no evidence submitted to alter the proposed course of action.  No new issues have been raised by the consultation responses. The negative impacts raised by the respondents will be addressed by the actions taken replace the ACOP with the suite of guidance. A communications handling plan will be drawn up to ensure that the information/guidance provided by the ACOP will not be lost and will be covered by guidance which is easier to use. It will also be made clear that the legal requirements have not and are not changing; these changes will make the requirements easier to understand and therefore assist compliance.”

Whilst an Approved Code of Practice has “more weight” than guidance, is it always the best way to achieve the desired result?  Clear guidance certainly helps to signpost the way to compliance, but a note of caution was signalled in the feedback to the HSE’s proposals; respondents said that putting the information in different places will result in more confusion and increase in the number of documents people have to look at.  They also said that it could result in a loss of information and less clarity on how to comply with the law.

Ultimately, this will depend on how good the guidance is.  Fragmentation of information can be counter-productive, but on the other hand, Approved Codes of Practice can often be dense and daunting.  What are your thoughts on the matter?  Is this a step in the right direction?

Source: Santia Group (see - http://www.santia.co.uk)

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