Changes to health and safety law to be introduced in 2012

The Government has announced that it is committed to simplifying health and safety guidance for small businesses by the summer in 2012, as well as ensuring that properly managed low-risk businesses need no longer be visited by inspectors.

It will also, from this month, set up a new “challenge panel” that will allow businesses to get the decisions of health and safety inspectors overturned immediately if they have got it wrong.

The moves are among a range of key responses to the Löfstedt review into health and safety, which published its findings in November 2011.

The review, Reclaiming health and safety for all: an independent review of health and safety legislation, set out a range of recommendations, including arguing for a reduction in health and safety regulations by one-third, rising to more than a half, over the next three years.

In its response, the Government has by and large accepted its recommendations, and has said it will ensure that by the summer of 2012:

  • health and safety guidance for small businesses will be much simpler than before;
  • businesses will get simple and consistent guidance from the Health and Safety Executive, professional bodies and insurers on whether or not they need to consider expert health and safety advice;
  • low-risk businesses that manage responsibilities properly will no longer be visited by inspectors; and
  • legislation will be brought forward to abolish the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority.

Then, by 2013, changes being brought forward will include:

  • self-employed people whose work poses absolutely no threat to others will be exempt from health and safety legislation;
  • approved codes of practice will provide businesses with clear practical examples of how to comply with the law; and
  • all “unnecessary” regulations will be revoked.

And, finally, by 2014, the Government has announced:

  • that a simpler accident reporting regime will be in place;
  • an intention to guarantee that European health and safety legislation is in future both risk- and evidence-based; and
  • that the nuclear industry will be given its own dedicated independent regulator.

Chris Grayling, minister for employment, said: “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 and safety regulation altogether.”

Professor Löfstedt, director of the King’s Centre for Risk Management at King’s College, London, said his recommendations were focused on tackling inconsistent enforcement by regulators and the generation of unnecessary paperwork.

“My overall conclusion is that there is no evidence for radically altering current health and safety legislation. Furthermore, there is evidence that work-related ill health and injury is itself a considerable burden on business – as well as a cost to society more generally – and that the regulatory regime offers vital protection to employees and the public,” he emphasised.

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