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Löfstedt Review consultation closes

23 January 2013

The deadline has closed for interested parties to submit evidence to the Löfstedt Review, an independent review of health & safety legislation, with contributions submitted by several stakeholders...

The deadline has closed for interested parties to submit evidence to the Löfstedt Review, an independent review of health & safety legislation, with contributions submitted by several stakeholders.

The review has been widly welcomed as an opportunity to simplify health & safety compliance, particularly for SMEs but many of those contributing to the consultation stressed that it must be supported by efforts to improve health & safety culture as a whole.

Roger Bibbings, RoSPA's occupational safety adviser, said: “RoSPA welcomes any attempt to try to 'tidy up' the law where its elegance and flow have become confused, as we have seen through adaptations to implement European directives. However, the real challenge is not just showing how we can ensure better regulatory housekeeping, without reducing essential protections, but how we can ensure that we have an effective health & safety support system to help businesses to comply with essential requirements.
“Good laws and guidance are clearly necessary but they are far from sufficient to deliver safe and healthy working conditions by themselves. To ensure a 'fine fit' between systems or standards and operational reality, you also need an effective 'health & safety culture'. Nationally and sectorally, we need effective systems of promotion, education, training, advice and support, particularly to enable smaller businesses to respond effectively.”

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health's (IOSH) head of policy and public affairs Richard Jones stressed that there was no room for cuts but said that some regulations could be merged: “The central principles at the heart of our legal system need to stay. Our members are telling us that current laws allow employers a balanced, flexible approach to health & safety. But carefully selecting regulations for merging, and simplifying the language, will go a long way towards reversing the misguided view that health & safety law is over the top.

“In the long term, we think the solution is education and the creation of a 'risk intelligent' society. That means giving businesses simpler, more definitive guidance and access to good advice and delivering better risk education.”
Barry Holt, the International Institute of Risk & Safety Management (IIRSM) director of policy and research said the IIRSM is concerned that the review should reinforce the need for a risk based approach which emphasises protecting life as the key objective rather than moving back towards a compliance based approach. Holt said: “The requirement of risk assessment is inherent in all recent legislation although this has led to an 'industry' where assessments for each activity are seen as ends in themselves.” Adding:

“Using the Management of health & safety at Work Regulations as the focus gives an opportunity for simplification.”

The British Safety Council (BSC) explained that feedback from some of its members suggests that small businesses sometimes find health & safety law and the supporting guidance impenetrable and impossible to navigate.“It is evident that many small organisations, and to a lesser degree medium and large organisations, find the task of better understanding their legal responsibilities daunting,” suggested BSC chair Lynda Armstrong and BSC chief executive Alex Botha in a letter to Professor Löfstedt.

Backing the review, EEF, the manufacturers' organisation urged government to bring forward a broad package of reforms highlighting two key areas. The EEF said a coordinated series of changes is required to the current compensation system to ensure that it provides rapid and appropriate redress whilst supporting good, practical risk management.

The EEF also questioned the effectivness of some recent EU health & safety directives pointing in particular to the Optical Radiations Directive and the proposed Electromagnetic Fields Directive which it said are not justified by the evidence. The EEF said the UK government must press the EU to return to risk based legislation.

The TUC made the case for a strong evidence-based regulatory regime backed up by effective enforcement.

The TUC acknowledged it is a strong supporter of regulation to protect workers, but says it also “recognises the need for it to be simple and practical”

The TUC added that it sees regulation as “a responsibility, just as paying taxes is a responsibility, and no business should be able to operate unless it can do so safely”.

Professor Löfstedt is expected to present his findings by the end of October.