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CORONAVIRUS AND WOODS WHUR

These are unprecedented times. Andy and I have worked in the leisure sector for over 30 years and it is hard to watch what is happening.

We have acted for some of our clients for nearly the whole of that period and they have become more than clients, they have become very close friends.

We are hopeful that the Government will announce packages today which will give the leisure sector the support to get through the next few months. Many successful businesses will be pushed to the very limit.

I have just asked our staff to work from home from tonight, something I never thought we would have to do.

We will maintain a skeleton presence in the office but we have invested in a fabulous practice management system, skype and digital dictation which means all of our team can work safely at home.

Importantly we will continue the same level of service which we always strive for…..as the Legal 500 said….”the client always comes first.”

Please stay safe, and do not hesitate to contact us if there is anything we can help with.

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Business as Usual?

Our departure from the EU slipped by at 11pm last Friday without any noticeable change to our daily lives!

In fact, a number of government organisations were very quick to tell me by email on Saturday morning that definitely nothing had changed in terms of regulatory compliance!

The Health and Safety Executive, Environment Agency and a clutch of other government departments/agencies have been busy telling me this and I’m sure any hopes and dreams of us leaving behind any dreaded EU directives and regulations are a little premature!

The duties that you have to discharge from a regulatory view point created by EU directives & regulations are still unaltered and are still requiring your attention and compliance.

Of course, over this year we will see the fruit or not of the government’s negotiations with the EU and the position may change.

That said, I would be prepared that the status quo will remain and where EU law has been adopted into domestic legislation –  don’t expect a bonfire of EU legislation.

Where I see a divergence from EU legislation will be achieved a little more subtly and over a longer period of time. We now have the possible advantage to choose what pieces of EU legislation from a regulatory view point are appropriate and potentially adopt them into UK legislation or discard them and adopt our solutions to particular regulatory issues.

For me, this is a welcome potential development. The ability for us to choose legislation which is relevant in particular to the situation prevailing at the time in the UK, rather than trying to adopt EU legislation which may be particularly specific and easy to comply with in some countries in the EU, but not necessarily the UK.

I am currently concluding a lengthy and time consuming case for a client who has been objecting to complying with some environmental legislation adopted from Europe, which is wholly inappropriate in the context of the client’s operations in the UK.

In an ideal future, I would like to think that Parliament would have created legislation which is tailored to our needs in the UK and prevent the costs and wasted time in trying to adopt legislation designed to generically apply to all the member states rather than specifically to one.

Unfortunately, only time will tell if we ultimately end up with regulatory systems which do this – fingers crossed that we do!

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Stress in the workplace – Criteria released for work-related stress investigations

At the regulatory seminar back in September (where does the time go!) we discussed stress in the workplace and the potential impacts and difficulties companies faced in monitoring a non-tangible health and safety issue.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have now released guidance on how it, as a regulator, investigates stress where there is evidence of a wider organisational failing but does not investigate concerns relating to individual cases of bullying or harassment.

The guidance issued indicates that organisations are taking mental wellbeing seriously and it is reassuring that they recognise mental wellbeing as an important factor in employee’s health in accordance with the law and their duties as an employer

Stress is not reportable under RIDDOR as a notifiable incident/concern. Only where key wider failings are identified is when stress in the workplace becomes relevant for the HSE to perhaps investigate, intervene, and take action.

This comes at a time where a recent survey has indicated that 6 in 10 construction workers suffer work-related mental ill health. The recent health and safety statistics also show a breakdown of work related stress, depression, anxiety figures which explain why the HSE are releasing further guidance on the topic for employers.

In any event, having a system in place which identifies how employees may experience stress, either through their employment or otherwise, whilst in the workplace is important for organisations to deal with not only issues with bullying and harassment for equality reasons, but the wider health and safety remit.

We have now seen the introduction of mental health first aiders within many different sectors to provide a point of contact not only for physical health, but also for mental health. This is one of many introductions that companies may wish to consider.

The issue here is how to actually quantify the problem and then deal with it. It is certainly difficult to devise a system that works for all employees therefore experience has shown behand a general policy for addressing stress – there must be a flexible approach by HR, line managers etc. to implement the policy in specific ways to the individual employee. That individual approach needs to be documented and that individual ‘plans’ need to be considered also as a whole to identify trends and particular organisation wide issues – so they can be addressed.

This approach is useful not only not only in the area or health and safety compliance, but also provides good evidence if you face a personal injury claim from employees for stress!

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Risk free New Year?

‘New Year, new me’ is often a phrase used at we turn our attention to the New Year and reflect on the one that has just passed us.

This applies just as much to businesses as it does to your personal attitude. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) suggest that risk assessments should be reviewed on an ‘ongoing basis’. Often an annual check is sensible for many businesses.

The purpose of reviewing risk assessments is essential to determine whether there have been any changes to the business activities which may, in turn, affect the risks associated with particular tasks/premises/individuals. It is essential that your risk assessments reflect the current conditions and they have not just been left to gather dust!

In particular, the HSE suggests you should look at your risk assessment and ask:

  • Have there been any significant changes?
  • Are there improvements you still need to make?
  • Have your workers spotted a problem?
  • Have you learnt anything from accidents, near misses, work-related ill-health (physical and mental) reports, sickness absence data or employee surveys?

It’s a worthwhile task to set you up on the annual January task-list of broader business compliance from a health and safety perspective. If you don’t review it now when are you going to find time to do it?

If you have any regulatory questions please do contact Sarah or James on sfrow@woodswhur.co.uk and james@woodswhur.co.uk or telephone the office on 01132343055.

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Out with the old and in with the new.

As we say goodbye to 2019 and look forward to 2020 we are in the midst of a move to our new offices in Leeds. From 2nd January 2020 we will have a new HQ in Leeds. After 8 years in Devonshire House we are moving to ST JAMES HOUSE, 28 PARK PLACE, LEEDS LS1 2SP. We are really pleased with our new offices which are spacious and modern, allowing for the continued growth we have seen in 2019. Amanda Usher became our first trainee Solicitor after working for us as a paralegal and Kirstan Lounsbach joined to further strengthen the Leeds based admin team. Luke Elford joined us in London from TLT to continue the development of our London presence as we moved our London offices to 42-46 Princelet Street, London, E1 5LP .

It has been an amazing year. Andy has had several trips abroad as our international gambling client base has grown significantly. We are seeing continued growth in this sector and I am hopeful I can make another exciting announcement in this area in the New Year. We have seen a hike in regulatory interaction in the Gambling Sector, with the Gambling Commission looking particularly closely at operators and their compliance with social responsibility, money laundering and proceeds of crime conditions. It has been very clear that the Commission is keen to act if they feel operators do not have first rate systems to ensure a transparent and safe gambling sector in the UK. We really do not see this slowing down and have written, and will continue to write, bulletins on this in 2020.

I have been doing much more work in the music sector, securing premises licences for Field Day festival, Drumsheds, Shindig festival on the back of successful applications for Printworks, Dock x and Exhibition in London. This is a really exciting area to be working in and it is always interesting to be involved in the SAG process around these major events. Again, we have some new and exciting developments in this area for 2020 and only see this area growing as we move forward.

As well as representing large multi-site operators, as a firm we have always represented some of the best independents in the country. 2019 has been a particularly strong year for our clients in this sector with a raft of new award winning openings around the country. It is still very exciting to be involved with these operators from site finding, proactive advice, delivering a new licence to celebrating with the client at opening events and seeing the premises flourish.

The Regulatory team has had some major successes this year in both defending operators when systems have gone wrong and let them down, as well as giving pro-active advice to operators to avoid the pitfalls which can be hugely impactful to businesses. The Regulatory team continue to be very active in the Taxi sector, which is a very active area of licensing and regulation. James and his team held a fantastic regulatory conference this year and we will be looking to hold a Gambling conference and other training events through 2020. Luke and I both spoke at the Institute of Licensing National Conference, and James spoke at the regional conference in York. We will continue to support and speak at IOL events.

We are looking forward to dealing with whatever 2020 throws at us. We have a new Government and movement on Brexit. It will be interesting to see what impact this has on the leisure sector, a bit of movement and more certainty will definitely help. With the amount that needs to be undertaken by central Government on these and big ticket issues we don’t foresee any major regulatory/legislator changes. That is not to say we wont see changes brought about by litigation through the courts creating interpretation of the legislation.

Everyone at Woods Whur wish you all a productive New Year; profits for the operators; safe environments for the regulators; exciting new developments and innovation. Back to the unpacking now though so we can settle into the new offices and hit the ground running for the new year.

Paddy Whur

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Health and Safety statistics – what does it tell us?

The latest workplace figures for health and safety statistics have been published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and provides some interesting reading.

Broadly, there were 1.4 million work-related ill health cases in 2018/19 and the annual costs of work-related injury and new cases of work-related ill health in 2017/18 (excluding long latency illnesses) was a cost of £15 billion.

In addition to the cost, the overall working days lost due to work-related ill health and non-fatal workplace injuries in 2018/19 was a total of £28.2 million. This, in itself, would prove to be costly to any business and not only financially, as inevitably employees being unexpectedly absent naturally has a knock on effect to other employees, productivity etc. The rate of self-reported work related ill health has shown a general downward trend but has been flat in recent years

Sadly, there were 2,526 deaths as a result of mesothelioma, with a similar number of lung cancer deaths linked to past exposures to asbestos. In addition, there were 12,000 lung disease deaths each year estimated to be linked to past exposures at work. These particular statistics released show that control of asbestos is as important as ever to prevent exposure. Experience has shown employers still neglect control measures in this area.

Work related stress, depression or anxiety also features in the summary statistics and identifies that public administration/defence is the sector with the highest rate of stress, followed by human health and social work, and education. These illnesses such as stress and depression has shown signs of increasing in recent years. Estimates of the main cause of work-related stress and depression suggest a mixture of workload, lack of support, violence, threats or bullying and changes to work. Again with non-tangible issues such as stress the solution is clearly seen as one that had a health and safety element to it – not a HR and medical one, which I think employers have been guilty of in the past confining it to.

The most common accident kinds are, unsurprisingly, slips, trips or falls on the same level followed by handling, lifting or carrying. The rate of self-reported non-fatal injury does show a downward trend. There were 69,208 non-fatal injuries reported under RIDDOR in 2018/19. RIDDOR reportable accidents mean that a notification is made to the HSE or the relevant council. That then means an inspection and possibly Fee For Intervention (FFI) costs or an improvement notice, or even a prosecution. If there is no accident then it is likely that there will be no (or reduced likelihood of a) visit by the HSE and further contingency resources being put into responding to something that could have been avoidable.

The statistics are certainly food for thought and provide a helpful summary for those in the safety industry to consider. A summary of the statistics can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/overall/hssh1819.pdf and provide a useful one stop shop for these recent statistics.

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Grenfell Tower publish phase 1 report – what does it mean?

The highly anticipated report following the conclusion of phase 1 (of 2) of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has been published this week which you should have not failed to see in the news despite Brexit!

For those of you in construction industry & it’s supply chain, landlords, property management, involved in the design and refurbishment of premises or in any way connected with buildings for residential use or vulnerable occupants, the worst is yet to come. Phase 1 dealt with the evening of the fire itself and, although not the intention of the inquiry, has also made a comment in respect of the ACM cladding used on the outside of the high rise residential tower. This shows the importance of this aspect of the issues and highlights that recommendations will heavily focus on this following conclusion of phase 2.

Phase 2 of the public inquiry will commence in January 2020, and the recent phase 1 report has confirmed that a number of key issues have come to light that will be considered in the phase 2 stage of the public inquiry that have not been considered in detail to date:

  • The decisions relating to the design of the refurbishment and the choice of materials.
  • The regime for testing and certifying the reaction to fire of materials intended for use in construction.
  • The design and choice of materials.
  • The performance of fire doors in the tower, in particular, whether they complied with relevant regulations, their maintenance and the reasons why some of the self-closing devices do not appear to have worked.
  • The organisation and management of the LFB, in particular in relation to the formulation of policy in the light of experience, the arrangements for training firefighters and control room staff, and the arrangements for sharing information about the particular problems associated with fighting fires in high-rise buildings.
  • The warnings of potential fire hazards given by the local community.
  • The authorities’ response to the disaster.

Contrary to some of the media reports that have been published to date, the sole blame for the Grenfell Tower fire has not been placed on the London Fire Brigade and the public inquiry has not yet concluded.

The phase 1 report does criticise the London Fire Brigade but there are any more elements to the Grenfell Tower tragedy which will be addressed as the public inquiry continues.

We will be keeping a watching brief on the developments of the inquiry and will provide regular updates as it progresses.

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Regulatory Seminar 2019

Many thanks to those attendees that took part in the regulatory seminar on 25 September 2019, we hope you had an enjoyable time.

Any of our clients who could not make the event and would like to receive the slides for the topics, then please do contact us. For information, the topics covered were as followed:

  • Fire Safety – Post Grenfell
  • Entertainment/Alcohol Licensing – What’s new?
  • Coroners inquests – what’s in it for me?
  • Sentencing and what does it really mean?
  • Regulatory smorgasbord – topical round up of cases, developments and issues to watch out for
  • Insurers – what can they make you and what can they not make you do?!

Whether or not you could make it on 25 September 2019, anyone who has a question  on particular topics we discussed or that are of interest in the regulatory field please let us know.  We are hoping to do a webinar in the near future to deal with some other topical issues. So please get in touch with your problems, thoughts and suggestions that you may have

We hope you can join us at the next seminar/conference and we look forward to hearing from you in respect of the suggestions for further events.

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Woods Whur Announces Regulatory Conference

Presentation 1 – Fire safety – Post Grenfell  

Presentation 2 – Entertainment / Alcohol Licensing – What’s new?

Presentation 3 – Coroner’s inquests – what’s in it for me?

Presentation 4 – Sentencing and what does it really mean?

Presentation 5 – Regulatory smorgasbord  – topical round up of cases, developments and issues to watch out for

Presentation 6 –  Insurers – what can they make you and what can they not make you do?!

Woods Whur’s Regulatory Team would like to invite you to its latest regulatory seminar on 25 September 2019 from 9:00am until 12 noon at Gateshead College’s impressive seminar space.

Woods Whur’s niche specialist regulatory lawyers will be delivering a topical round up on a variety of regulatory matters from food, fire, health & safety to environmental, coronial law and entertainment licensing. We do hope that you can join us for what promises to be a useful series of presentations on the ever changing world of regulatory compliance, investigation and enforcement.

The speakers will be James Thompson, the Head of Regulatory Department, who has over 20 years’ experience acting for clients, subject to regulatory investigation and prosecution.  He also has many years’ experience from the police service.  James also sits as a Coroner for County Durham.

Along with James, Andy Woods will also be speaking. Andy is a nationally acknowledged expert in licensing & gaming law will be speaking on topical issues affecting those operating in that sector. Andy has specialised in licensing for over 25 years and has higher rights of audience which allows him to represent his clients in all UK courts concerned with any proceedings. Andy has received commendations for his skill in running large projects in the betting and gaming sector. He acts for international, national and individual operators concerned with both alcohol and gambling licensing.

Sarah Frow from within the Regulatory team will also be speaking alongside James and Andy. Sarah is a regulatory and licensing lawyer and assists business clients facing investigations and prosecutions by the police, the Health and Safety Executive, the Care Quality Commission, the Gambling Commission, Food Standards Agency and other regulatory bodies. As well as criminal proceedings, Sarah advises clients regarding inquests and public inquiries.

If you can join us, please contact Sarah Griffiths, our Seminar Co-Ordinator, on sarah@woodswhur.co.uk who can confirm your place/places and send you joining instructions.

We look forward to seeing you on 25 September 2019.
Woods Whur

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Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics – What The Latest National Fatal Accidents Statistics Tell Us

The Health and Safety Executive (“HSE”) have just published their provisional fatal accident statistics for the 2018/2019 period.

It sadly records that 147 workers were killed in the period and a further 92 members of the public were also killed due to work related activities in the same period.

As with all statistics, sometimes the figures that aren’t recorded are more interesting than what is and this report is no exception. The HSE report makes clear that those who die in road accidents are not contained within these statistics as the enforcing authority is the Police and the Department for Transport compiles the details of fatal accidents.

A cursory glance at the Department for Transport figures shows that 1770 persons died in road traffic accidents in a similar period and is generally accepted that a third of them were at work or connected with work at the time of their death.

This substantially increases the total and perhaps gives a more accurate picture, as road deaths at work are of course very relevant to the overall picture if deaths at work.

Also 147 workers were killed in the UK when compared to other member states of the EU, this figure is second from bottom in terms of workers killed. However, organisations cannot be complacent when looking at these figures as deaths at work whilst driving are much higher and the HSE also acknowledge that occupational diseases, on average still takes the lives of around 13,000 people each year.

Some of the headlines from the statistics are worthy of consideration even if they do not give a completely candid analysis of the position.

Unfortunately, construction and agriculture, fisheries & forestry continue to be the most dangerous sectors of the economy for fatal accidents, with 62 of the fatal accidents incurring in these areas, closely followed by manufacturing.

It would be easy for those of us working in the service industry to become complacent and to view fatal accidents as the domain of such sectors of the economy as construction. However, administrative, retail, accommodation and food sectors had 28 fatalities in a similar period. Therefore, the risk of a fatal accident is not confined to occupations which may be stereotypically viewed as dangerous or inherently risky. What is clear is the actual nature and cause of the types of fatal accidents. The top three types of accident which account for 86 of the fatalities relate to falls from height and persons being struck by moving objects or moving vehicles.

Again, for those of you who have read my articles over the previous editions, I have been an advocate for clients to constantly review their most basic and fundamental health and safety arrangements. As they are more often than not the areas where risks continue to manifest themselves. The fact that sadly people still die from falls and being struck by a moving vehicle in the work place, should be one of the easiest risks to mitigate.

In conclusion, the statistics do give a salutary lesson in the fact that accidents do happen and compared to the work force as a whole are rare, but readers of my articles are well aware the aftermath of such an accident is not something any of us wish to contemplate.

Prevention is always better than reading the statistics next year and thinking a part of those statistics are made up of an accident your organisation had!