Government offers to simplify health and safety procedures

The Government has unveiled a wholesale reform of Britain’s health and safety landscape in the wake of the March 2011 Budget and the Lord Young Common sense, common safety review of health and safety carried out last autumn.

In March, employment minister Chris Grayling said that, under the new government framework Good health and safety, good for everyone, “responsible employers” will no longer face automatic health and safety inspections, with the aim of cutting the number of inspections carried out in the UK by at least one-third.

Fears about the effects of the proposal were raised by health and safety bodies in a recent issue of Occupational Health magazine, with unions in particular worried that corners might end up being cut as a result.

Other measures announced include a review of all existing health and safety laws, to be carried out by Professor Ragnar E Lofstedt, of King’s College London, and due to be published in the autumn.

A new online package, Health and safety made simple, has been published to assist small and low-risk employers.

A new Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register has also gone “live”. It is designed to help businesses and organisations to source health and safety advice more easily.

“Of course it is right to protect employees in the workplace, but Britain’s health and safety culture is also stifling business and holding back economic growth,” said Grayling. “The purpose of health and safety regulation is to protect people at work and rightly so. But we need common sense at the heart of the system, and these measures will help root out the needless burden of bureaucracy.”

In the Budget, the Government accepted all of Lord Young’s recommendations. These included proposals to simplify risk-assessment procedures for “low-hazard” workplaces such as offices, classrooms and shops, and for workers in such environments or those working from home or the self-employed to be exempted from having to go thr­ough a risk assessment at all.

In a separate development, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published its latest Delivery plan covering the period up to the end of March 2012. This outlined three priorities:

  • to make more effective use of available resources, by becoming more efficient and “making some tough choices” about priorities;
  • to recover more of its costs and charging where there is legitimate scope to do so; and
  • to level the playing field by ensuring that businesses that create risks by operating outside the law, or where a continuing high level of engagement is required, meet more of the regulator’s costs generated as a result, with the HSE consulting on proposals to introduce such arrangements.

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