British health and safety experts fear a court case being heard in Luxembourg could turn the health and safety clock back 40 years.
The European Commission has brought the case against the UK government because it claims it has failed to properly implement European health and safety law.
If the commission has its way, Britain will no longer be able to deal with big risks and leave trivial ones alone. Instead all risks, no matter how small, will have to be equally assessed and controlled.
This could mean the dangers presented by envelopes, plant pots and paperclips being treated the same as the dangers presented by scaffolding, machinery or electrical equipment.
Neil Budworth, president of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, called on the commission to drop the “ridiculous” case.
“If the UK government loses the case, health and safety in this country could be turned back 40 years. All of our current legislation will have to be re-written and employers will be required to assess every risk, regardless of how small that risk is,” he said.
“The effect of this will be profound. It will drown many companies in red tape at a time when our profession, and the Health and Safety Executive, are doing their utmost to balance the scale of the risk against the effort to control it.”