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Looking for the silver lining

23 December 2008

We like to keep optimistic at HazardEx and despite the doom and gloom that surrounds our economy just now, the clouds of the current recession could well have a silver lining. In terms of process safety, at least, things could be on the up.

Looking for the silver lining
Looking for the silver lining

Recessionary pressure will surely lead to lower demand for raw materials and manufactured goods so much of the process industry will be soon be operating at less than full capacity. Reduced output will provide more time in operating schedules for planned maintenance as it will not be as vital to run processes at capacity. Space in schedules will in turn provide the time for the essential training sessions, especially in safety techniques and procedures.

There will, of course, be financial reasons for battening down the hatches and cutting back on both maintenance and training. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is one body that is urging employers not to cut corners on health and safety during the economic downturn. Advisors from the society realise that given the financial climate, there is a danger that occupational health and safety could be seen as a problem largely solved. It could be thought of as a 'nice-to-have' rather than a really essential social and economic ingredient. There could also be a temptation to cut corners, reduce standards or delay introducing essential protective measures.

As well as the legal and moral reasons for preventing accidents and ill-health, employers must recognise the strong business case, which exists even when times are tough. Risk assessments are a case in point.
While 'suitable and sufficient' risk assessments are a legal requirement, they do not have to mean an overload of red tape and, properly undertaken, they should help businesses to direct scarce resources towards priority issues.

When there are no longer opportunities to improve the bottom line by increasing turnover, controlling loss becomes even more important. And recession is coming at a time when penalties for non-compliance are being increased substantially and third parties such as clients are continuing to demand higher standards. Surely a compelling argument for keeping faith with health and safety during times of recession.
The Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008, received Royal Assent in October and supports the long held view of Government and the HSE that generally fines for health and safety offences are too low to be an effective deterrent.

The law, which comes into force in January 2009, seeks to revise the system of penalties applicable to certain offences relating to health and safety. The legislation will raise the maximum fine that can be imposed in the lower courts to £20,000 for most offences and a custodial sentence an option for more offences. Reason enough to tighten up on maintenance and to invest in some safety training.
Where, one may ask, is the optimism expressed at the top of this column? Particularly in the HazardEx brand and in our forthcoming annual event, which will be held on the 25th and 26th February 2009.

The Majestic Hotel in Harrogate, will host the eighth annual HazardEx Event. This year’s conference programme has a much greater emphasis on user experience with the bulk of the papers being case studies of how leading companies have installed and operated safety systems in their hazardous area plants and processes. A speaker from Airbus will discuss ATEX/DSEAR considerations for the operation of their fuel systems test facility. GlaxoSmithKline will provide information regarding powder containment and risk management in the pharmaceutical industry and Corus Northern Engineering Services will highlight the importance of risk perception and behaviour management to Safety at Work. Full details are published in the special Event Supplement, which appears at the back of this edition.

As in previous years, the 2009 event will feature a Gala Dinner to celebrate the HazardEx Awards. Nominations for the awards are published from page 22 and readers are requested to decide who will be the winner of each category. Please turn to the nomination pages and then visit the HazardEx website at and follow the navigation tabs to Awards and the voting page, where your votes can be registered.

Please share our optimism and decide who wins the awards at HazardEx 2009.

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