Local authorities are to be “banned” from carrying out “unnecessary” health and safety inspections under a new code, the Government has said.
The Department for Work and Pensions in May said the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) new statutory National Enforcement Code for local authorities would instead focus council inspections on “higher risk” activities in specified sectors “or when there is intelligence of workplaces putting employees or the public at risk”.
Minister for employment Mark Hoban said: “We need health and safety that protects people where there are real risks but does not stifle businesses. There are too many examples of local councils imposing unnecessary burdens by inspecting low-risk businesses. This new code should put a stop to this by putting common sense back into the system.”
However, councils have criticised the tone of the Government announcement, arguing that the code will not have the power to prevent councils from taking health and safety actions they feel are appropriate.
The local authority trade magazine “Local Government Chronicle” argued that the code did not take away the councils’ power to inspect premises, but simply meant they now needed to show “good cause”.
Chair of the HSE Judith Hackitt predicted that the code could lead to “real improvement” in safety performance through councils better targeting the organisations that put their employees at the greatest risk.
“Local inspectors have a very important role to play in ensuring the effective and proportionate management of risks by businesses, and the code is designed to guide them to do this,” she said.
“It sets out how targeting should be achieved, providing certainty for both businesses and regulators. HSE will be working with local authorities to ensure the code is successfully implemented.”
The new code arose from last year’s Löfstedt review of health and safety enforcement.