Regulatory Outlook

Health and safety | UK Regulatory Outlook November 2023

Published on 29th Nov 2023

King's Speech – health and safety aspects | HSE publishes annual work-related ill health statistics | Ministerial statement on transitional arrangements for second staircase in residential buildings

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King's Speech 2023 – health and safety aspects 

The King's Speech, given on 7 November, set out the government's legislative agenda for the current parliamentary session, which is likely to be the last before the next general election. It confirmed a very generally stated intention to protect leaseholders by "extending the measures in the Building Safety Act 2022 to ensure it operates as intended" in relation to ensuring that freeholders and developers are "unable to escape their liabilities to fund building remediation work ".

The Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill, also known as Martyn's Law, was also included in the speech (see this earlier Regulatory Outlook for an outline of the bill). Ahead of formal introduction of the bill into Parliament, the government will launch a consultation on the standard tier to ensure the right balance is struck between protecting the public and avoiding burdens on small premises.

HSE publishes annual work-related ill health statistics for 2022/23

According to the HSE's latest annual work-related ill health statistics, 1.8 million workers suffered from work-related ill health in 2022/2023. While the HSE statistics from the 2021/2022 period also estimated that 1.8 million workers suffered work-related illness, the HSE has advised that the data for this period has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic which has created issues with comparability. Instead, the HSE has reported that the figures for 2022/2023 should be compared to pre-coronavirus period (2018/2019) whereby there were 1.4 million cases; illustrating a general upwards trend of work-related ill health in Great Britain.  

During the 2022/2023 period, 875,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression, and anxiety of which 338,000 are new cases. While this shows a 4.5% decrease from 914,000 cases during the 2021/2022 period, the HSE's advice on the impact of comparability during the coronavirus pandemic years applies. In fact, there has been a rise of cases in recent years with the HSE reporting 2,590 work-related stress, depression, and anxiety cases per 100,000 workers (2.6%) during the 2022/2023 period as compared to 1,800 cases per 100,000 workers in the 2018/2019 period. This follows an upwards trend established in previous years. The figures also outlined that that 135 workers were killed in work-related accidents during this time period. 

As discussed in this previous insight, mental health amongst workers is at the forefront of the HSE's Protecting People and Places strategy for 2022 to 2032.  In light of these latest HSE figures showing considerably higher reported rates of work-related mental health issues than pre-pandemic, businesses need to continue to ensure that they are implementing the necessary measures to mitigate occupational mental health risks that take into account the HSE's latest guidance and tools.

Ministerial statement on transitional arrangements for second staircase in residential buildings

The government has published a ministerial statement announcing the transitional arrangements for new proposals for a second staircase in residential buildings over 18 metres in height.

Once the second staircase proposals have been formally published (via change to Approved Document B of the Building Regulations relating to fire safety), there will be a 30 month transitional period during which developers can elect whether to proceed under the old or new guidance, provided that any projects which proceed without a second staircase "get underway in earnest" within 18 months.

The introduction of a transitional period is intended to avoid further project delays, which have been reported due to a lack of certainty in the industry.

Government letter on the changes made to the building control process for higher-risk buildings

On 31 October, the government circulated a letter providing further detail on the changes made to the building control process for higher-risk buildings and the wider changes to procedural building regulations.

What is noteworthy is that the letter provides a definition of "commencement" of building work which replaces the recognised guidance outlined in previous circular letters.

For complex buildings, work is considered commenced when the foundation supporting the building and the structure of the lowest floor of the building are completed. Where the work consists of a building that is not complex, or a horizontal extension of a building, work is considered commenced when the sub-surface of the building or the extension, basement level and the structure of the ground floor level is completed. 


* This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.

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