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Reaching a turning point
23 January 2013
As HSM goes to press the HSE has released a list of the top ten most bizarre health & safety bans from the past year including decisions to ban Royal wedding street parties and attempts to prevent the use of pins to secure commemorative poppies. The Government said that the "ridiculous" bans had no basis in official regulations and betrayed an "obsession" with managing minor risks in bureaucratic and heavy-handed ways or complying with stifling restrictions imposed by insurance companies.
Responding to the minister's comments Richard Jones, of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), suggested that his statement represented an â€œimportant watershed in putting the record straight about real health & safety.â€ Let's hope that Jones is right. Almost two years on from David Cameron's pre-election announcement that he wanted to â€œshake up Britain's over the top health & safety culture,â€ there are changes afoot including:
â€¢ An agreement that the RIDDOR reporting threshold will be raised from three days to seven, which has been welcomed in particular by SMEs with no dedicated health & safety representative who may have found the existing requirements particularly onerous. (Read more about the changes as well as details of forthcoming changes to health & safety prosecutions on page 12).
â€¢ The proposal of the introduction of a £133/hour charge for providing advice to businesses who are found to be flouting the law. HSE programme director Gordon MacDonald explains more on page 10 where there are also details of how to take part in the associated consultation.
The outcome of the LÃ¶fstedt Review, which set out to consider the opportunities for reducing the burden of health & safety legislation on UK businesses, is also due soon (see summary of submissions overleaf). In addition the government's Red Tape Challenge, an open forum which gives people the chance to say which rules they think the government should cut back, and which they should keep is still open. (see www.redtapechallenge.cabinetoffice.gov.uk to view contributions so far and to have your say). While cost cutting has no doubt played a part in driving some of these changes there is a feeling that they are steps in the right direction to simplifying health & safety requirements. We need to be cautious of course that we protect people who are in real danger and don't throw the baby out with the bath water. However, if these measures and proposals are backed by sustained efforts to challenge cases of misinterpretation of health & safety law, then we might, just might, have reached a turning point.
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