Comment by: Malcolm Laws
Focus area: Chemicals
Regulator concerned: Environment Agency,Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
Comments on Chemical Industry Regulatory Enforcement
In recent years HSE and the EA have made greater efforts towards a common approach and are no longer pulling in opposite directions.
I have noticed a significant ‘dumbing down’ of Factory Inspectors in recent years as they try to absorb more and more regulations, primarily from the EU, and become less competent over a wider scope. Compliance needs to be split among the Inspectors into manageable blocks and there must be more reliance on Specialist Inspectors for our industry.
The COMAH tax is now being applied to all communication between industry and HSE. Any enquiry about a totally non-COMAH matter is now charged at full COMAH rates. Can we go back to a level playing field where the COMAH tax is only charged for COMAH related matters.
It is essential that the Regulators carry out a feasibility study before introducing or enforcing new regulations. As an example the recent changes in tank inspection regime introduced following the Buncefield Report include a requirement in Para 152 that tank assessors are qualified to EEMUA 159 Tank Integrity Assessor Level 1. There are insufficient qualified people in the UK to meet this requirement.
On my dream list is that the Regulators could again offer information on a ‘without prejudice’ basis. They are in the ideal position to identify the best practice and best suppliers of safety related services and lists of ‘service providers’ should be on the HSE website with the clear understanding that HSE do not warrant such providers in any way. This would save considerable time and expense spent hunting for competent support and improve the quality of the support used.