European Court of Justice’s UK health and safety law decision hailed as “victory for common sense”

A European Court of Justice (ECJ) decision on a key element of UK health and safety law has been hailed as a “victory for common sense”.

The ECJ upheld the use of the key phrase “so far as is reasonably practicable” in British law.

A challenge by the European Commission (EC) argued that by restricting the duty on employers to ensure the health and safety of workers to this phrase, the government had fallen short of standards in the original directive.

But the ECJ dismissed the EC’s case and ordered it to pay the UK government’s costs.

Bill Callaghan, chairman of the Health and Safety Commission, said: “We continue to believe that the right way forward is a proportionate and risk-based approach protecting employees and others effectively, while allowing common sense to be applied when deciding on what protective measures to adopt.”

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “The Health and Safety Executive now needs to get on with ensuring that the UK’s safety laws are properly enforced, and that employers who risk the safety of their workforce are brought to book.”

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