Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Office of Nuclear Regulation and the Health & Safety Executive (ONR/HSE) effective regulators of Government ?

In a recent FOI the HSE was asked; could you please tell me what action ONR/HSE is taking under Health and safety legislation to ensure that standards of safety are maintained in light of MODs’ own admission that safety performance has been and continues to be compromised as a consequence of ever reducing resources.”  The full text of the request is given at Annex A.

The ONR/HSE have so far failed to provide an answer to this FOI request. 

The fact that the Strategic Defence and Security Review ( SDSR ) is a politically driven process within Government and that the ONR/HSE is part of the Government albeit at arms length might explain the HSEs’ reluctance to take action against the MOD whereas the HSE is far more proactive when it comes to the safety failures of commercial operators. 

It is also notable that MODs own requirements for the prior assessment of the impacts of organisational changes set down in JSP 815 “Management of Organisational Change” by MODs ( Annex B) own admission have been largely ignored.

It is clear that the political agenda driving the SDSR and the need to save money are trumping the health and safety of MOD employees and the public.

It is also clear that the ONR/HSE is failing to act as an effective Regulator and in doing so is complicit in putting the safety of MOD employees and the public at unacceptable risk.

Annex A

“MOD have just published annual report on Safety, Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development for 2010

As can been seen in the extract below from the DESB 2010 report it appears that the lessons from the Haddon Cave Review and report have been ignored; in that, decisions were taken in the SDSR/Defence Reform Review without a proper consideration of their impact on safety generally and nuclear safety in particular

Link to Haddon cave Report

"43. SDSR/Defence Reform. The Strategic Defence and Security Review did not, formally, assess the major implications for the safety of the department and there has been insufficient time to properly assess the impact of the SDSR options taken before decisions were made. Therefore the full impact of these decisions might not be known for a number of years. That said, the major issues raised by the Front Line Commands regarding wider PR11 options were discussed at a DESB in January 2011, although timescales prevented a full assessment.

44. It is unclear what impact the Defence Reform Review will have on safety. However the need to reduce costs and the severe reduction in personnel numbers will undoubtedly place a severe strain on safety systems. The department must ensure that mitigation plans are in place to maintain the appropriate standards. SSD&C is in close discussions with the Reform Review team as to how any outcome will impact on some of the wider aspects work and Defence safety as a whole."

The part of the report about Defence Nuclear Environment Safety Board (DNESB) clearly indicates that the ability of MOD's internal Regulator DNSR to do its job is being compromised by the lack resources to quote from the report "further aggravated by constraints on regulatory capacity"

"11. The DNESB Chairman reports that an acceptable standard of nuclear and radiological safety and environmental protection has been maintained in the operation and delivery of the Defence nuclear programmes. Individually, none of the DNESB's 8 issues reflect an immediate safety or environmental concern; but together they represent a potential compromise to compliance or the demonstrability of compliance and, taken together, they present a risk that it will become increasingly difficult to maintain that the Defence nuclear programmes are being managed with due regard for the protection of the workforce, the public and the environment. The principal threats to safety in the Defence nuclear programmes in the medium term are the adequacy of resources, both money and staff complement, and the maintenance of a sustainable cadre of suitably competent staff (RN, MOD civilians and in industry partners). Confidence in making the Substantial Assurance judgement is reduced from 2009 due to the adverse trend in resources (which I expect will become yet more painful), further aggravated by constraints on regulatory capacity.

12. Duty Holders have maintained Continuous at Sea Deterrence (despite increasing pressures on manpower and some equipment fragility) and have safely delivered the required military capability from the Submarine Arm despite reduced platform availability; HMS ASTUTE has become the first new SSN in the fleet since 1991.

13. The main risks/issues are:

a. Lack of adequate resource to deliver the Defence nuclear programmes safely.

b. Measures already in hand may be insufficient to address the present and predicted shortage of Nuclear SQEP in the RN among MOD civilians and Defence contractors.

c. The frequency and significance of incidents remain too high as a result of poor control of work."

Could you please tell me what action ONR/HSE is taking under Health and safety legislation to ensure that standards of safety are maintained in light of MODs’ own admission that safety performance has been and continues to be compromised as a consequence of ever reducing resources.”

Annex B


45. Without adequate planning and analysis, change may result in
 the inadvertent erosion of the emphasis on high standards of
 environment and safety performance. This may manifest itself in the
 loss of established formal and informal environment and safety
 processes, loss of critical safety culture, knowledge and
 expertise, or lack of sufficient personnel to safely operate and
 maintain a process with consequent increased likelihood of
 accidents and incidents.

46. Duty holder organisations shall, prior to any significant
 changes, conduct an environment and safety assessment to baseline
 the existing arrangements for critical environment and safety
 activities; analyse the impact and justify the proposed changes.
 The rigour of the assessment shall be proportionate to the
 significance of the change. Where appropriate and proportionate,
 the organisation should seek the views of the relevant FSBs or
 discipline leads.

47. It shall be the responsibility of the individual or team
 proposing the initiative to implement and complete the assessment
 prior to making any changes. Outcomes of assessments shall be
 included in any submissions seeking endorsement to continue with
 the implementation phase. Once implemented, the impact of the
 changes shall be reviewed after an appropriate period.”