The posts about writing to MPs etc got me thinking (again) about the extraordinary legal situation re RSI, and what ought to be done about it. Here we have excellent legislation in place, in common with the rest of Europe, yet it’s practically useless to people who are at risk of injury because it isn’t enforced. The problem with the DSE regs is and has always been that the individual who gets injured or is at risk of injury has no way to actually avail themselves of the provisions of the law that theoretically is there to protect them. Although it’s criminal law, you can’t report your employer to the police. They’d just tell you it’s the responsibility of the HSE. Which it is, but the HSE doesn’t enforce it. End of story. However, I’ve just come across an interesting document, on the DTI website, entitled “Suspension from work on medical or maternity grounds under health and safety regulations PL705 (REV 3)” This is about individual employment rights – i.e., rights that the employee can exercise him/herself, rather than just wishing the HSE would do something.
Here are a few selected quotes: “Some jobs are covered by special health and safety regulations under which employees may be suspended from normal work on medical grounds.” “Current health and safety regulations under which employees can be suspended on medical grounds are listed at the beginning of Section one”. “At present these are concerned with jobs involving exposure to ionising radiation, lead and certain other substances which are hazardous to health. If further regulations are made by the appropriate Minister, or codes of practice approved by the Health and Safety Commission, which contain requirements for suspension of employees on medical grounds, these will be added to the list accordingly.” I think this is interesting because it’s accepted in UK H&S law that non-compliant workstations or working conditions are also hazardous to health, witness the existence of the DSE Regs.
If “regulations were made by the appropriate Minister”, I speculate that an individual employee who was being asked to work or continue to work at a workstation which failed to comply with the Regs, might be able to exercise his/her right to medical suspension. The HSE would presumably have to come and have a look at the workstation, to verify whether it did or did not comply with the Regs. This would provide the employer with a big incentive to get in line with the law pronto. Worth suggesting to MPs? It would give them something concrete to raise with the “appropriate Minister”. After all, the actual H&S legislation is already in place, all that is needed is to make it qualify as grounds for medical suspension. What does anyone think?
Comment 1: Thanks. Well worth the thought.
Comment 2: The question is whether this legislation is still in force. From the quotation, it may be only for legislation made under the old Factories Act. Lorraine may be able to straighten us out on this. Definitely a good start point though if it can be made to work. I’ll chase the legislation from the ionising radiations end (my specialty after all) and report back.