The evaluation and development of the lead authority partnership scheme as a central intervention strategy for health and safety enforcement by local authorities
The research comprises a suite of studies that examines and develops the Lead Authority Partnership Scheme (LAPS) as a central intervention strategy for health and safety by local authority (LA) enforcers. Partnership working is a regulatory concept that in recent years has become more popular but there has been little research conducted to investigate, explore and evaluate its practical application. The study reviewed two contrasting approaches to partnership working between LAs and businesses, both of which were intended to secure improvements in the consistency of enforcement by the regulators and in the health and safety management systems of the participating businesses. The first was a well-established and highly prescriptive approach that required a substantial resource commitment on the part of the LA responsible for conducting a safety management review (SMR) of the business. As a result of his evaluation of the existing ‘full SMR’ scheme, the author developed a second, more flexible approach to partnership working. The research framework was based upon a primarily qualitative methodology intended to investigate and explore the impact of the new flexible arrangements for partnership working. The findings from this study of the flexible development of the scheme were compared and contrasted with those from studies of the established ‘full SMR’ scheme. A substantial degree of triangulation was applied in an attempt to strengthen validity and broaden applicability of the research findings. Key informant interviews, participant observation, document/archive reviews, questionnaires and surveys all their particular part to play in the overall study. The findings from this research revealed that LAPS failed to deliver consistency of LA enforcement across multiple-outlet businesses and the LA enforced business sectors. Improvement was however apparent in the safety management systems of the businesses participating in LAPS. Trust between LA inspector and safety professional was key to the success of the partnerships as was the commitment of these key individuals. Competition for precious LA resources, the priority afforded to food safety over health and safety, the perceived high resource demands of LAPS, and the structure and culture of LAs were identified as significant barriers to LA participation. Flexible approaches, whilst addressing the resource issues, introduced some fresh concerns relating to credibility and delivery. Over and above the stated aims of the scheme, LAs and businesses had their own reasons for participation, notably the personal development of individuals and kudos for the organisation. The research has explored the wider implications for partnership working with the overall conclusion it is most appropriately seen as a strategic level element within a broader structured intervention strategy.