Health and safety regulations to be cut by half

The Government has announced plans to cut health and safety red tape in half over the next three years by combining, simplifying and reducing existing regulations.

Minister for employment Chris Grayling said today that the Government will launch an immediate consultation on the abolition of a raft of health and safety regulations following recommendations made in the Löfstedt Review. The Government intends to scrap the first rules within a few months.

Grayling asked Professor Ragnar Löfsedt, director of the King’s Centre for Risk Management at King’s College London, to conduct the review in order to identify opportunities to simplify health and safety rules.

In the new year, businesses will be able to get wrong decisions from health and safety inspectors overturned immediately through a new challenge panel.

The Government is also looking to exempt self-employed people carrying out low-risk work from health and safety legislation by 2013.

Grayling commented: “From the beginning, we said getting the regulation of health and safety right is important to everyone. By accepting the recommendations of Professor Löfstedt we are putting common sense back at the heart of health and safety.

“We will also ensure our reforms put an emphasis on personal responsibility. It cannot be right that employers are responsible for damages when they have done all they can to manage the risk.”

The Government will review all provisions that impose strict liability under health and safety rules, with the aim of addressing “over-compliance” with health and safety law.

It also plans to ensure that, by working more closely with the European Commission, EU Directives are not unnecessarily enhanced in the UK.

Dr Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce and part of the advisory panel appointed to provide constructive challenges to the review, welcomed the move to reduce the burden on businesses.

“No employer wants to see accidents, injuries or fatalities in the workplace. But health and safety regulation does sometimes create an unnecessary burden on businesses. Companies often face form-filling and high compliance costs that are not proportionate to the real risks faced by employees in the workplace.

“Thanks to the overzealous external advice and perceptions driven by the media, many small and medium-sized companies over-comply with the law – at great cost.”

However, while employer groups have welcomed the changes, the TUC has said that the Government has missed an opportunity to reduce preventable work-related injury and illness.

The Löfstedt Review follows Lord Young’s 2010 report, which was met by warnings from trade unions that reforms to health and safety laws would be hazardous for employees.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber commented: “Unfortunately, like Lord Young, Professor Löfstedt was only asked to look at the ‘burden’ on business, not the burden that the failings in the current system have placed on the two million people whose health has been made worse because of their work. Nor has it considered the more than 20,000 people whose lives are cut short every year as a result of a preventable work-related injury or illness. Because of this, not one life will be saved as a result and not one injury or illness prevented.

“It is time the Government stopped tinkering around with regulations to save business from non-existent ‘red tape’ and instead started looking at what positive steps it could take to improve Britain’s health and safety record.”

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