The 6X before Christmas dinner

There’s a great tradition of the men sneaking out of the house before lunch on the pretext of going for a walk, and then – almost by accident – ending up in the pub for a swift couple of pints before heading home for lunch.

Today, on arriving at the kids’ house, I discovered that (a) there was no particular task for me to do and (b) my son had discharged all his preparatory responsibilities. So we went for a walk, to the Cottage Inn in Wembdon. We found it open, entered, and found Wadworth’s 6X on sale. No further discussion was required, except to find out which cider my son wanted to drink, because he’s only 20 and hasn’t yet learned about real ales.

So, a pleasant couple of pints were had, as were we when we got back. Penance for me was making gravy to go with the goose. Another successful mission accomplished.

Public consultation on a National Local Authority Enforcement Code

Well, it’s four o’clock on the Friday before Christmas, so someone at HSE has cleared their desk.

After a great deal of straining, HSE have finally produced a consultation paper on a National Code for local authority enforcement of health and safety. This will be issued as Section 18 guidance under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, which means local authorities are obliged to follow the guidance.

At a first, very cursory glance, it looks like a common-sense development of the approach taken by HSE and local authority regulators over the last year since the publication of the Professor Ragnar Löfstedt report “Reclaiming health & safety for all: An independent review of health and safety legislation” (you can read all about the Government’s health and safety reforms here).

The Code will:

  • Clarify the roles and responsibilities of business, regulators and professional bodies to ensure a shared understanding on the management of risk;
  • Outline a risk-based regulatory approach for local authority regulators;
  • Set out standards for training and competence
  • Set out arrangements for peer review and reporting on compliance with the code.

There is also a list of “high risk sectors” and “high risk activities” which should be the only ones receiving proactive inspections; all other sites will receive either reactive (when things go wrong) or non-inspection interventions. Curiously, although the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and gas explosion is identified as a hazard, the only sector associated with the hazard is “commercial catering premises using solid fuel cooking equipment”. – Shome mishtake surely?

Interested parties have until 1st March 2013 to respond, but we’re expecting that the Code will be in place from 1st April 2013.

It’s the solstice!

Thank goodness for that. At 11.11 GMT today we finally start the slow journey back to spring and summer. Mind you, it’ll still be late January before we really notice the difference around here.

I’m writing this a little ahead of time, and, an hour and a half after the purported time of sunrise here in Argyll, it’s still very gloomy out there beyond the windows.

I pity the folks in Orkney and Shetland, although they have more to celebrate today.

Looking back and looking forward

I’ve spent this week reviewing what I’ve achieved at work this year and identifying what needs to be done in the last quarter. So far, most of my objectives to date have been met, a few have slipped and one or two have been shifted due to external forces. That’s a satisfying place to be in the run-in to Christmas and Hogmanay, and it means that tomorrow I can finish for my holiday with most things in reasonable order and with some idea of what my priorities will be for January.

It’s the nature of work plans that they are more ambitious than reality generally permits to come to pass. One lesson we’re learning is to be a little less ambitious and allow ourselves to succeed at more. If you have too much in the plan, and only so much time or resource to deliver it, you’re setting yourself up to fail. If, however, you identify the tasks that really are essential for delivery or improvement, then energies can be focussed in the right direction and success is much more likely. And, if you have an idea about what else you’d like to do if time permits, then you’re not short of other projects to choose from when opportunities arise.

We’ve done a lot of work this year on reviewing how we deliver our function as health and safety regulators. The big training day I ran a couple of weeks ago was part of that, and now my job is to support the teams as they start to deliver the specific projects we’ve identified – gas safety in catering premise and Legionella in spa pools. We’re also now up and running with the desktop risk assessment for sites which fall to us for enforcement and that should start to give us much better intelligence about where the risks really are out there so we can do something to tackle them.

Priorities for the last quarter of the year are really about looking forward to the next year and the things we need to be doing in that. So, a review of policies and procedures, documents to make them more usable for readers, planning projects for the next year and planning training and learning activities for inspectors. And there’ll be some work with the database system and the document management system, the internal health and safety group and the regional partnership group.

It’s going to be fun.

The UK government has its religious knickers in a twist

Today we learn that the analysis of the 2011 Census for England and Wales shows the number of people in the countries expressing no religious affiliation at all at a record level of 25%. That’s doubled since the last census in 2001. Unfortunately, comparative statistics from the census in Scotland are not yet available, but I’d be surprised not to see a similar trend.

The results show 59.3% of the population describing themselves as Christian, a figure which was anticipated in February by the Ipsos MORI research published by the Richard Dawkins Foundation. That research suggested an outcome of 54% who would express a Christian affiliation, so pretty close to the census result. The interesting thing about the research conducted by Ipsos MORI was the detailed responses given by people who stated that they’d identified themselves as Christians in the census. Highlights:

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Green cheese

sign on building

Part of the sign above the old Cheese Market in Walls Street, Glasgow.

A sign above the old cheese market in Walls Street in Glasgow. Photographed on my way to get a meal (and a pint) at the excellent Babbity Bowster in Blackfriars Street. This was taken purely for my own amusement.