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Martyn’s Law to impose ‘extra layer’ of health and safety obligations on employers

Jonathan Cowlan tells HRNews how the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill fits in with UK employers’ existing health and safety obligations

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  • Transcript

    As we highlighted a fortnight ago, a draft bill designed to protect premises from the threat of terrorism is on track to become law. The government’s Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill was one of 21 Bills mentioned in the King’s Speech on 7 November, signalling the Government’s intention to pass it into law in the coming year. The Bill places a statutory duty on qualifying premises and events to take proportionate and reasonable measures to improve public safety and protect against the threat of terrorism. It introduces a new health and safety duty on employers but how does it sit with employers’ existing duties? We’ll ask a health and safety expert about that.

    A reminder. The draft bill follows recommendations made as part of the inquiry into the Manchester Arena attack in 2017 which killed 22 people. Also known as Martyn’s Law, following a campaign by the mother of 29-year-old victim Martyn Hett, the bill introduces a ‘Protect Duty’ on those responsible for publicly accessible venues and events to help reduce the threat to the public from terrorist attacks.

    Following the King’s Speech, the Home Office confirmed that in advance of the Bill’s introduction the Government will launch a further public consultation which they say is designed to find the right balance between enhancing public safety and not overburdening organisations. After that they will introduce the bill to parliament “as soon as parliamentary time allows.”

    As IOSH magazine points out, health and safety professionals will recognise the approach taken by this bill which emulates concepts already established in other elements of premises safety, including fire safety, building safety and construction work. The government has been keen to stress the need for proportionate measures, and this is evident in the bill, which requires ‘reasonably practicable’ control measures to  taken following the risk assessment. But how does this fit in with existing health and safety regulations? It’s a question I put to health and safety specialist Jonathan Cowlan: 

    Jonathan Cowlan: “That’s a very good question, Joe, and it’s very easy to answer - we don't know - and that was one of the things that the committee came up with as a key thing. There are several things, depending on where you fall within those public premises, as to what your existing requirements are. So, obviously, for sports grounds you've got sports licencing things in place. For licenced venues you've got separate licencing arrangements, you've got overarching health and safety arrangements and you will also have specific emergency arrangements and considerations depending on the type of location you are. So, how this risk assessment - and most of those things are the amount of risk assessment basis - is meant to fit in with those is going to be a very interesting question and a practical one as well as a legal one, I think, because the skills and the competence you need to put those things in place do vary from topic to topic. So, it has got to be coordinated guidance to fit in with existing duties and as we've seen in previous things that have come out in the last few years, that's not easy to achieve and can lead to the measures that have been put in place been questionable about whether they meet the right requirements for the right legislation.”

    Joe Glavina: “This is a health and safety issue, Jon, and most of our viewers are, of course, HR professionals. It’s important that employers have a joined-up approach on this issue, so how do clients achieve that?”

    Jonathan Cowlan: “I think as with most things, Joe, it's big picture stuff and identifying where those things are clearly in one of those categories, HR or health and safety, and where they cut across each other. I think you can certainly see with the draft Terrorism Bill the training element which is an obvious thing about making sure training matrices have got the new stuff in and also, because of the nature of terrorism, what do you do after the event? How do you respond and what are you going to need in terms of looking after people's mental health and wellbeing in the aftermath? So, I think there the ‘pre-bit’ there's the operational bid, and as the post-event bit if there is a terrorist event and they're all things have got to be covered by the policy and the overarching risk assessment approach to that.”

    If you’d like a to know more about the new Protect Duty and its likely impact then be aware that in the past couple of weeks HRNews has been looking at the scope of the duty and areas where we think the draft bill needs clarification before it is introduced before parliament. That’s ‘Further public consultation planned for Martyn’s Law’ with comment from lawyer Hannah Burton, and ‘Clarification needed on scope of Martyn’s Law, says health and safety expert’ with comment from Jonathan Cowlan. We’ve put link to both in the transcript of this programme for you.

    - Link to HRNews programme: ‘Clarification needed on scope of Martyn’s Law, says health and safety expert’
    - Link to HRNews programme: ‘Further public consultation planned for Martyn’s Law’


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