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Binding rules underpin inspection cuts
23 January 2013
Shops, offices, pubs and clubs will no longer face health and safety inspections, and over 3,000 regulations will be scrapped or overhauled in a radical plan by the Government to curb red tape and boost British business growth.
From April 2013, the Government intends to introduce binding new rules on both the Health & Safety Executive and on local authorities, that will exempt hundreds of thousands of businesses from what it calls "burdensome, regular health and safety inspections." In future, businesses will only face health and safety inspections if they are operating in higher risk areas such as construction, or if they have an incident or a track record of poor performance.
The Government is also proposing to introduce draft legislation in October aimed at ensuring businesses will only be held liable for civil damages in health and safety cases if they can be shown to have acted negligently.Â This means that employers who have complied with their health and safety duties will no longer be automatically liable for damages, as is currently the case.Â
In further measures to boost growth and jobs in the economy, the Government is now committing to abolish or substantially reduce at least 3,000 business regulations and it will complete the identification of the regulations to be scrapped or overhauled by December 2013.
Business secretary Vince Cable said: "In these tough times, businesses need to focus all their energies on creating jobs and growth, not being tied up in unnecessary red tape. I've listened to those concerns and we're determined to put common sense back into areas like health and safety, which will reduce costs and fear of burdensome inspections."
But the British Safety Council says that the move to exempt 'low risk' businesses from regular health and safety inspections risks generating more heat than light. In a statement is said that "there is a real danger when health and safety is constantly being characterised as a burden on business and an obstacle to economic growth and job creation. There is clear evidence of the financial and social benefits that well managed, proportionate health and safety brings to both employers and employees."
Chief executive of the British Safety Council Alex Botha added: â€œThe Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authorities are charged with making adequate arrangements for the enforcement of health and safety law in relation to specified work activities. No-one should interfere with that. The myth that there is an army of health and safety inspectors disrupting and stifling UK business day in day out is just that - a myth. Â It is estimated that every workplace in Great Britain can, presently, expect a visit from an inspector on average once every 38 years.
â€œLet's not overlook the progress that has been made over the last eighteen months in ensuring that our regulatory framework for health and safety at work is proportionate, sensible and comprehensible.â€
However, the changes have been backed by a number of business groups, including the Institute of Directors. Its head of regulatory policy Alexander Ehmann said: â€œThe Government's efforts on deregulation are welcome. Excessive regulation costs time and money, both of which businesses would rather spend on developing new products, hiring staff and building up British business both here and abroad."