Following recommendations laid out in Professor Löftstedt's independent review of health and safety legislation, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has opened a three-month consultation on proposals for the revision, consolidation or withdrawal of its Approved Codes of Practice (ACOPs).

Whilst it is generally agreed that ACOPs play a key role in assisting understanding of health and safety legislation and controlling risk, it is felt that there is definitely room for improvement (in particular, providing certainty and clarity for duty holders).

The HSE has now completed the initial review of 32 of its 52 ACOPs, and in doing so took into account various factors including:

  • Whether an ACOP is the most appropriate format for providing guidance on the area in question;
  • Whether methods of compliance outlined in ACOPs are sufficient to ensure compliance by duty holders;
  • What revisions would be required to ensure advice was technically up-to-date, legally correct and clear about legal requirements; 
  • Whether the advice has been presented in the most appropriate way considering the intended audience;
  • The number of businesses an ACOP applies to; and
  • The findings of the Löftstedt review and other known views

Two ACOPs have been identified as requiring revision or withdrawal without consultation as changes had already been consulted on or the legal provisions have been revoked. These relate to lift trucks (ACOP L117 – rider-operated lift trucks: operator training) and chemical manufacturing (L130 – the compilation of safety data sheets). Arrangements for the remaining 20 ACOPs are yet to be reviewed.

The consultation paper has been broken down into three sections:

Section 1: Proposals for the revision, consolidation or withdrawal of 15 ACOPs (if agreed, these proposals will be taken forward by the review for delivery by end-2013):

  • Dangerous substances and explosive atmospheres (ACOPs L134-138)
  • Legionella (ACOP L8)
  • Asbestos (ACOPs L127, L143)
  • Gas safety (ACOPs L56, COP20)
  • Hazardous substances (ACOP L5)
  • Workplaces (ACOP L24)
  • Management of health and safety (ACOP L21)
  • Agriculture (ACOP L116)
  • Pipelines (ACOP L81)

For each of the above areas there is a section detailing the proposal(s) and associated consultation questions for that area.

Section 2: Proposals for minor revisions or no changes to a further 15 ACOPs (if agreed, these proposals will be taken forward by the review for delivery by end-2014):

  • Diving (ACOPs L103-107)
  • Work equipment (ACOPs L22, L112, L114)
  • Lifting equipment (ACOP L113)
  • Confined spaces (ACOP L101)
  • Pressure systems (ACOP L122)
  • Hazardous substances – pottery production (ACOP L60)
  • Hazardous substances – lead (ACOP L132)
  • Quarries (ACOP L118)
  • Worker involvement (ACOP L146)

For each of the above areas there is a section detailing the proposal(s). At the end of the section there are six consultation questions applicable to all 15 ACOPs.

Section 3: Introducing a limit on the length of ACOPs:

There is a proposal to limit the length of ACOP documents to a maximum of 32 pages, other than in exceptional circumstances. Six consultation questions are posed to the reader. If this proposal is agreed then the proposed revision of any ACOP affected will be revisited.

Legal responsibilities to protect workers' health and safety will not be altered by any changes to the ACOPs. To view the consultation paper and for more information on how to respond please click here. Consultation closes on 14 September 2012.

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The original publication date for this article was 09/07/2012.