Surveying safely: what to expect from the RICS professional statement

Keeping it safe

29 September 2016

Anthony Taylor provides an update on the forthcoming RICS Surveying Safely professional statement


The RICS guidance note Surveying Safely, 1st edition is in the process of being updated, and it has also been selected to be one of the first new professional statements, a number of which will be published over the next few months.

This new status means that members will have to adhere to, rather than simply be guided by, the information given in the document. All members will be expected to deliver their professional services to a standard of health and safety at least to the level set out in the professional statement. However, it may be that the standards in Surveying Safely will need to be exceeded.

New sentencing guidelines

This revision is particularly timely given that, first, there have been significant changes to the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations that came fully into force in April 2015 (see Doing your duty and One year on) and second, new health and safety sentencing guidelines were introduced in February by the Sentencing Council for England and Wales (see Getting serious).

These guidelines have been put in place to help both magistrates’ and Crown courts in handing down consistent sentences for all convictions of health and safety, food safety, environmental offences and corporate manslaughter. They are designed to ensure sentences that are proportionate to the size of the organisation, and they state: “The fine must be sufficiently substantial to have a real economic impact which will bring home to both management and shareholders the need to operate within the Law.” They explicitly describe the objectives of sentencing as: “Punishment, deterrence and the removal of any gain derived through the commission of the offence.” The ante for health and safety compliance has been significantly raised.


“All members will be expected to deliver their professional services to a level of health and safety set out in the professional statement”

Greater emphasis is now also being placed on the health aspect of health and safety. With around 5,000 individuals continuing to be afflicted by asbestos contamination a year – the effects may take 40 years to become apparent – greater attention is also being paid to other contaminants including dusts such as silica, the as-yet unknown potential effects of nanotechnology and air polluted by emissions of all sorts.

In October 2015, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health published a report that calls for urgent action to remove asbestos from UK workplaces and public buildings, with complete removal recommended by 2035. The government has yet to decide on what action to take, but its likely direction can be clearly seen.

In January this year, an alliance of contractors, clients, the Health and Safety Executive and other trade representative bodies established the Health in Construction Leadership Group. To date, it has gained a commitment from around 170 leading firms to focus on tackling ill health and disease throughout the sector.

Awareness

In 2014, the RICS Health and Safety Advisory Group repeated a health and safety survey of members in the property industry first conducted in 2011 with input at that time from the University of Portsmouth. The group also anticipates repeating the survey later this year.

It is interesting that 11% of members who responded to the survey thought that “awareness” was a problem in relation to managing health and safety in their organisation, higher than the 6% who responded this way in 2011. Also, while 64% of members said they were involved with health and safety issues at work, this had fallen from 73% in 2011 (see Safety in numbers).

It is therefore critical that all members review their operational practices in line with the new professional statement. To this end, a checklist is also provided in the statement that sets out the criteria against which compliance with the standard will be judged, in the event that the RICS finds it necessary to do so.

It also includes for the first time the concept of the “safe person”, effectively seeking to ensure that each individual accepts responsibility for their own actions. While the organisation retains responsibility for ensuring that people have the tools to do their job safely and in good health, the individuals themselves need to retain responsibility for their own health and safety. This is because the individual is best equipped to look after their own wellbeing – not least ensuring they have all relevant competencies, including a clear comprehension of their own limitations.

Anthony Taylor is a director, group health and safety, at Bilfinger GVA

Further information