Out-Law News

‘Unclear’ how Martyn’s Law aligns with UK’s existing health and safety laws

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

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  • Transcript

    The Terrorism Protection of Premises Bill, also known as ‘Martyn’s Law’, is expected to become law at some point next year and so, rightly, employers are gearing up for a raft of new duties they will be facing depending on the capacity of their premises. But how will the new duties fit in with existing health and safety obligations? We’ll ask an expert.

    The bill is the legislative response to the findings of the Manchester Arena Inquiry and is designed to reduce the risk to the public from terrorism by the protection of public venues, increasing national security and personal safety. The Protect Duty, as it’s being called, will place a requirement on those responsible for certain locations to consider the threat from terrorism and to mitigate against it.

    There will be different requirements depending on a venue’s capacity. So, venues which can host between 100 to 799 people will need to follow ‘Standard Tier’ regulations. The details of what that means exactly will be published by the Home Office in the coming weeks. For venues with a capacity of 800 and above, ‘Enhanced Tier’ rules will apply, involving more detailed risk assessments, security planning and staff training and a ‘proportional response’. Again, precisely what that means is yet to be determined by the Home Affairs Committee which is conducting the pre-legislative scrutiny of the bill and consulting relevant stakeholders. The new rules will not apply to venues with a capacity of less than 100.

    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.”

    Joe Glavina: “Is there anything else you’d like to add, Jon?”

    Jonathan Cowlan: “I don't think so, except watch this space. I think it's probably going to be about September when the committee are expecting some responses to the concerns that they've raised- and some of those concerns have been pretty specific about the timescales they expect things to come back in because they want to get the legislation in place, but make sure it is correct. So, I think this will be a relatively fast-moving piece and I think keeping abreast of HR, health and safety, security industry messaging is very important to make sure you've got a balanced view of where things are going.”

    We do have two recent programmes on the draft Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill featuring Jonathan and health and safety lawyer Hannah Burton. Both of those programmes are available for viewing now from the Out-Law website and we’ve included links to both in the transcript of this programme.


    - Link to HRNews programme: ‘MPs warn draft Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill ‘not fit for purpose’ 

    - Link to HRNews programme: ‘Clarity needed over scope of Protect Duty under Martyn’s Law, say lawyers’

    - Link to Home Affairs Select Committee Report on the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) draft Bill

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