Young’s ‘low hazard’ approach to risk gets government go-ahead

Risk assessment procedures for “low-hazard” workplaces such as offices, classrooms and shops should be vastly simplified. And workers in such environments who are working from home or who are self-employed should be exempted from having to go through a risk assessment at all, the Government has said.

These are two of the key recommendations in the Government’s review of health safety carried out by Lord Young and published in October. The report, “Common sense, common safety”, recommended:

  • The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) create simpler interactive risk assessments for low-hazard workplaces and make them available on its website.
  • The HSE create “periodic checklists” that enable businesses operating in low-hazard environments to check and record their compliance with regulations as well as online video demonstrations of best practice.
  • Creating a new validation and accreditation body (initially by the HSE but eventually to be industry-run) to “professionalise” the role of health and safety consultants.
  • Creating a web-based directory of accredited health and safety consultants.
  • Introducing a simplified claims procedure for personal injury claims – similar to that for road traffic accidents – that are less than £10,000 on a fixed-costs basis.
  • Exploring the possibility of extending the framework of such a scheme to cover low-value medical negligence claims.
  • Examining the option of extending the upper limit for road traffic accident personal injury claims to £25,000.
  • Restricting the operation of referral agencies and personal injury lawyers and controlling the volume and type of such advertising.
  • Clarifying (through legislation if necessary) that people will not be held liable for any consequences because of “well-intentioned” voluntary acts on their part.
  • Insurance companies cease the requirement that businesses operating in low-hazard environments have to employ health and safety consultants to carry out full health and safety risk assessments.
  • Ensuring that where health and safety consultants are employed to carry out full health and safety risk assessments, only qualified consultants included on the web-based directory above should be used.

The Government indicated it would be accepting all Lord Young’s recommendations, with Prime Minister David Cameron saying: “Good health and safety is vitally important. But all too often good, straightforward legislation designed to protect people from major hazards has been extended inappropriately to cover every walk of life, no matter how low risk.”

The HSE said it is working on the recommendations, including, in October, launching a 20-minute online risk assessment tool for offices – and it will establish a new occupational safety consultants register from January 2011.

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