Understanding Duty Holder Responsibilities ‘Vital’ to Preventing H&S Failures, Says Bureau Veritas


Amid a recent spate of high-profile health and safety failures in the retail sector, Bureau Veritas is reminding duty holders that ensuring an in-depth understanding of the full breadth of their responsibilities and keeping a close ear to the ground is vital to preventing ‘another accident waiting to happen’.

In 2017, a record number of retailers faced fines of over £1m for health and safety offences. Most notably, one of the UK’s largest retail chains was given a hefty food safety fine last year after mouse droppings were found at a number of its stores nationwide, while another household goods retailer was fined £2.2million when an employee was tragically paralysed after a cage full of paint tins fell on her.

Typically, in a large part of such instances investigations have revealed failings around ensuring a holistic safety, robust protocol and, in turn, poor staff training.

To prevent such incidents developing in the first place, reviewing current risk systems and improving the due diligence of duty holders is essential, leading inspection and certification firm Bureau Veritas has advised.

Vicky Shah, Retail and Hospitality Lead at Bureau Veritas, said: “2017 has been awash with numerous high profile health and safety breaches in the retail sector which have resulted in grave safety concerns and, in worse case scenarios, caused major accidents. For retailers, such breaches not only result in prosecution and a hefty fine but irreparable damage to their reputation – a risk many can ill-afford in the current climate.”

According to Bureau Veritas, a large part of the problem lies with misunderstanding what a duty holder is, with the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) defining a duty holder as the named responsible person whose role is to ensure any potential health and safety risk is assessed, and that procedures are put in place to reduce the risk as is ‘reasonably practicable’.

However, given the narrow scope of the regulation and the lack of organisational pull through, duty holders are often left wondering what the law says about their responsibilities and what the consequences are if they fail to comply, says Bureau Veritas.

Vicky Shah adds: “In many cases, retailers will appoint a named ‘duty holder’ who may not entirely understand their roles and responsibilities and although there are duty holders designated at almost every level of the hierarchy, the chief executive is often considered the ultimate duty holder.

“As a result, it can be difficult for retailers to co-ordinate a health and safety approach which encompasses the entire organisation - significantly increasing the risks of accidents. What’s more, when a breach occurs, duty holders can often be far placed from the scene and unaware of the true breadth of their responsibilities.

“The recent spate of high-profile health and safety failures has driven greater enforcement of health and safety standards - making it an apt time for organisations to review their current risk systems and improve the due diligence of duty holders.

“For many businesses, this starts with calling in the experts such as Bureau Veritas, who specialise in creating centralised risk management systems that not only reduce the likelihood of such incidents but also offer invaluable training to duty holders in the organisation.”

To find out more please call 0345 600 1828 or email info@uk.bureauveritas.com.

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