We asked Partner Laura McMillan about her role in Brodies' health and safety team and what are the next big issues in health and safety law.
What is your role at Brodies?
I am a partner and solicitor advocate in our health & safety and liability claims defence team.
What sort of things do you provide advice on to your clients?
I provide advice, training and support to clients on health & safety law and am focused on working with businesses or organisations (directly, or through their insurer or broker) to help them avoid health & safety incidents occurring. When an incident does occur, our team is there to assist clients in all areas - from helping with post-incident investigation to defending injury claims, and representing their interests when the Health & Safety Executive are involved.
As a solicitor advocate, I regularly appear in court which gives me a good insight in to how a judge or sheriff might approach a case. In turn, that helps me to advise clients on how a claim, Fatal Accident Inquiry or prosecution should be handled, and what evidence is needed to put forward the best position possible.
What is your one top tip for businesses to improve their response to health and safety incidents?
Can I have two?! Firstly, have very clear procedures for handling incidents. These procedures may vary depending on the severity of the incident but each person in the business or organisation should know, and understand, their role in the event of an incident occurring. Secondly, if you anticipate a claim or Health & Safety Executive involvement, make sure that you retain all relevant information and know where to put your hands on it! If you are not clear on what might be relevant - seek advice from a health & safety advisor or solicitor. It is so frustrating when evidence which would support a defence is lost or was not captured in the first place.
What do you think will be the next big issues in health and safety law?
It remains to be seen what upheaval will follow Brexit when it comes to health and safety legislation, but it is unlikely obligations on, and standards expected of, most UK businesses will alter in any significant way. Rightly, there has recently been a considerable focus on stress and mental wellbeing in the workplace. In the past, this may have been viewed as a human resources issue, however, I would expect to see more Health & Safety Executive activity in this area. Failure to have an adequate policy on stress and mental wellbeing, or a failure to implement that policy, could well result in a business facing Health & Safety Executive enforcement, including prosecution. Finally, the increased use of AI and robotic technology will require businesses to consider, and address, the new health & safety risks they may bring.