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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Alert24 - Safeguard Update

OHS abets terrorism?

OHS abets terrorism?
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At a time when the British PM is vowing to tackle the OHS "monster", concerns have been raised that health and safety issues have been used to relax checks on suspected terrorists and criminals trying to enter the UK.

SHP, the official magazine of IOSH, reports a British parliamentary select committee's criticism of a Government agency for using health and safety as a "routine" excuse for not following recommended procedures.

The Commons Home Affairs Committee recently released a report into UK border controls, to see whether checks to catch suspected terrorists and criminals trying to enter the UK had been relaxed without proper authorisation.

The committee, chaired by Labour MP Keith Vaz, said it was "shocked" at the number of times the Home Office Warnings Index Guidance (HOWI) - a database of terrorist suspects and others who are not to be admitted to the country - was invoked by UK Border Agency staff to downgrade border checks for health and safety reasons.

The Committee had heard that the guidelines had been invoked almost 100 times at the French port of Calais, and on 50 occasions between May and July 2011, and then on a further seven occasions between August and October 2011.

The guidance was supposed to relate to "significant" health and safety problems, such as traffic at ports backing up all the way to the motorway, or a build-up of passengers in an airport arrivals hall such that those disembarking from more recently landed aircraft could not be accommodated, thus preventing aircraft from landing.

The committee had been told by the chief executive of the UK Border Agency that there appeared to be confusion on the ground about what provisions were being used in relation to different checks. Health and safety provisions had become routinely used, rather than only in serious circumstances.The committee expressed its concern that the HOWI guidance "might be being used inappropriately at a local level as a management tool instead of an emergency provision".

It was recommended that the agency fully review its use of the guidance to clarify to all ports the limits of authority which they had to implement it, and ensure that robust reporting and monitoring mechanisms were in place for its continued use.

Mr Vaz had said border checks carried out at airports and ports in the UK were the final line of defence against those who should be prevented entry. The apparent low levels of supervision at the UK Border Agency were highly troubling.

The overuse of the HOWI guidelines and the fact that no one appeared to have been aware of what was happening, demonstrated a lack of oversight and a failure of communication, he said.

People Mentioned:
Keith Vaz
Organisations Mentioned:
UK Border Agency
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From Alert24 - Safeguard Update

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