The Coal Authority and the HSE Workshops Programme Insights

October 25, 2023

The recent “Permitting Stakeholder Engagement Workshops”, a collaborative effort between the British Drilling Association (BDA), the Coal Authority, and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), have ignited discussions aimed at reshaping the permitting system in areas once dominated by coal mining. This collective effort paves the way for a safer and more sustainable future. The primary goal of these workshops is to foster a more engaged stakeholder community, making it easier to collaborate with the Coal Authority, HSE, and the BDA. Participants walk away with invaluable knowledge and insights to enhance compliance and elevate standards within sectors utilising the Coal Authority’s permitting system.

Following one of the recent workshops, the Coal Authority’s Principal Permitting Manager, Riwilo Masulani, interviewed Paul Bradley, the Head of Operations at Health and Safety Executive and Paul McMann, Chair of the British Drilling Association, to discuss what they consider to be important factors in making decisions on permitted developments. The interview was recorded and uploaded to YouTube.

Some of the areas discussed were:

  • Balancing Speed, Cost, and Sustainability – during the interview, both Paul Bradley and Paul McMann shared their perspectives on the key challenges that surfaced during the workshops. They emphasised the need to strike a balance between fast and cost-efficient decisions, while upholding the highest ethical standards that prioritise sustainability, protect people, and enhance the environment. Paul Bradley noted that the speed of the permitting process is vital, as delays can lead to increased costs passed on to clients. However, the efficiency of the process should not come at the expense of sustainability.
  • Health and Safety as a Top Priority – Paul Bradley emphasised that health and safety is not just a good practice but also a legal requirement. Failing to prioritise health and safety can result in significantly higher costs, both financially and in terms of safety incidents. In the event of an incident, costs can escalate to around seven times normal operating costs. Therefore, doing things right from the start, even if it takes a bit more time, is essential.
  • Prioritising Sustainability – Paul McMann stressed the importance of prioritising sustainability over speedy determination times. He argued that as a society, we must focus on sustainability to have a lasting impact, especially when it relates to health and safety matters. Sustainability needs to move up the agenda to ensure that practices and workstreams genuinely make a positive impact.
  • Project Timeliness vs. Compliance – When discussing breaches in permit conditions, the interviewees acknowledged that project managers often face the dilemma of meeting project deadlines versus complying with standards. Both Paul Bradley and Paul McMann emphasised that meeting legislative duties and adhering to regulations and standards is of paramount importance. While completing projects on time is a goal, it should never come at the expense of safety and compliance.
  • Cost vs. Standards – The interviewees concurred that upholding high standards ultimately saves money in the long run. Adhering to standards and best practices minimises accidents, downtime, and additional expenses. While cost is a consideration, the importance of standards cannot be understated.

This dialogue underscored the importance of balancing speed, cost, and sustainability, as well as prioritising health and safety and compliance with standards. As stakeholders work together to find the right equilibrium, the permitting process in these areas is poised to evolve, promoting safer and more sustainable practices for the benefit of all involved. The knowledge and insights gained from these workshops will undoubtedly contribute to the development of more robust permitting systems in the coal mining legacy regions, ensuring a brighter and safer future.

The video interview can be found here:

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