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Health & safety regulation to be cut by half

23 January 2013

The Government has announced plans to begin a major cut back of health & safety red tape as early as January...

The Government has announced plans to begin a major cut back of health & safety red tape as early as January. It will begin an immediate consultation on the abolition of a number of health & safety regulations and intends to have removed the first rules from the statute book within a few months.

It will also establish from 1 January a new challenge panel which will allow businesses to get the decisions of health & safety inspectors overturned immediately if they are wrong.

The move follows publication of the Löfstedt Review into health and safety legislation on the 21st November, commissioned by the Employment Minister in March.

It recommends that health and safety law should not apply to self-employed people whose work activity poses no potential risk of harm to others.
Professor Ragnar E Löfstedt set out his recommendations in the report:

“Reclaiming health and safety for all: An independent review of health and safety legislation”. The Government has accepted his recommendations.
Health and safety regulations will be reduced by a third rising to over a half over the next 3 years, through combining, simplifying and reducing the approximately 200 existing regulations. The role of the Health and Safety Executive in relation to local authorities will be strengthened. And the report makes recommendations to ensure that employers are not held responsible for damages when they have done all they can to manage risks.

Minister for Employment Chris Grayling said: “From the beginning we said getting the regulation of health & safety right is important to everyone. By accepting the recommendations of Professor Löfstedt we are putting common sense back at the heart of health & safety. Our reforms will root out needless bureaucracy and be a significant boost to the million self employed people who will be moved out of health & safety regulation altogether.

“We will also ensure our reforms put an emphasis on personal responsibility. It cannot be right that employers are responsible for damages when they have done all they can to manage the risk. Fundamentally we will ensure the health & safety system is fit for purpose through streamlining the maze of regulations and ensuring consistency across the board.”

Professor Löfstedt said: 'When I was invited to conduct this review I was determined that it should be science-based, evidence-based and risk-based. My guiding principle is that regulation should also be founded on robust evidence and an assessment of the real risks. All the discussions I had and the evidence I have received over the past few months have served to reinforce this view."
There have been mixed reactions to the review. The British Safety Council chief executive Alex Botha suggested there was much to find favour with, welcoming in particular: “the report's desire to 'Restore proportionality and inform the broader debate about risk'.

Botha was also pleased that Professor Löfstedt recommends a risk and evidence-based approach to its review of EU health and safety legislation in 2013, as this will further the drive towards promoting risk education which the British Safety Council advocates. “This makes perfect sense: risks vary enormously across and within sectors and only by using the experience of those already in those fields will legislation become truly reflective of what it has to protect. Ensuring regulations are interpreted and applied to areas where most risk occurs should also clarify the fog of misunderstanding around health & safety.”
David Lummis, chief executive officer at the British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) said the recommendations seemed “a sensible way forward for the health & safety industry.”
“The current suite of health and safety legislation has been developed over many years to meet the ever changing needs of society. We are pleased that Professor Lofstedt recognises that the underlying strength of these legislations needs to be maintained in order to protect worker's health. Britain has long had an exemplary health and safety record and any possible weakening of the legislation or the omission of key sections would have had devastating consequences and potentially diminished the importance of safety. Instead we are delighted to see that Professor Lofstedt fully recognises Britain's vital role in health and safety and highlights its responsibility in the development of European health and safety legislation. Roger Bibbings, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents' (RoSPA) occupational safety adviser, said: “We are delighted that he has emphasised the importance of a proportionate, risk-based approach to safety and health assurance rather than an inflexible one based on prescriptive rules. It is vital that this message is now embedded once and for all across the wider system, including in the activities of third parties, because many fresh opportunities for cutting harm and loss and making health and safety easier are waiting to be grasped.”
The Institution of Occupational Safety & Health (IOSH) welcomed the report overall but also raised concerns about the speed and scale of the Government's proposed rationalisation of health and safety regulations - and the plan to exempt some self-employed workers from their statutory duties.
IOSH chief executive Rob Strange OBE said: “We support the streamlining and simplification of health & safety regulations, but we are keen to find out how the Government intends to reduce the number by half without increasing the risk to workers and the general public of injury and ill health.
“We are also concerned about the proposed exemption of self-employed people from health & safety obligations, as many will have work which involves the use of equipment or chemicals, or requires visits to other workplaces. This approach seems to contradict the development of a more risk aware society, which the report is also keen to promote.”
The TUC also welcomed the report but expressed its disappointment that it makes no suggestions as to how the protection of employees in the workplace could be improved. TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “Following last year's review by Lord Young, we've now seen yet another government review into workplace safety that has concluded that the current system is generally fine.
“It is time the government stopped tinkering around with regulations to save business from non-existent 'red-tape' and instead started looking at what positive steps it could take to improve Britain's health and safety record.”
Read the full report at: www.dwp.gov.uk/policy/health-and-safety/#review