The Health and Safety Commission (HSC) has launched a public consultation this week on its draft code on the health and safety (H&S) responsibilities of public sector directors and board members.

The need to develop a code for directors was first broached as part of the government's Revitalising Health and Safety strategy in June 2000.

The consultation period on the draft code will finish on March 9.

The draft code includes points such as:

  • Boards need to accept joint responsibility and leadership for their organisations' H&S performance
  • Organisations must have a clear H&S policy which explains how it intends to deliver its objectives
  • One board member must be appointed to champion H&S issues
  • Individual board members must recognise their personal liabilities under H&S law
  • All board decisions must reflect the organisations' H&S policy, particularly in investment in new equipment, premises and products and in doing business with companies that also have sound H&S policies
  • Boards must consult staff fully, via trade union representatives when appropriate, on all H&S issues, as required by law
  • Boards must stay informed of all H&S issues affecting their organisation and its performance.

    HSC chair Bill Callaghan said boards and directors should see their H&S responsibilities as a core business requirement, not an inconvenient add-on.

    “Individual directors and managers can be prosecuted if their actions, or lack of them, lead to work-related deaths, illness or injury,” he said. “The code seeks to ensure that everyone at board level recognises and acts on this responsibility.”

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