Thursday 29 December 2011

Rationalising health and safety law

Self-employed people in low-risk occupations will be among the first to benefit from a wholesale revamp of health and safety regulation, which has been promised "sooner rather than later" by employment minister, Chris Grayling, in response to 'Reclaiming health and safety for all: An independent review of health and safety regulation'.

While the review by Professor Lofstedt concludes that the regulatory regime offers vital protection for employees and the public, it identifies factors such as inconsistent enforcement and the influence of third parties that drive businesses beyond what the regulations require and generate excessive paperwork. It makes a total of 26 commendations, of which the following five are being acted upon as a priority:

  1. 1) The Health & Safety Executive has been asked to take urgent action to draw up proposals exempting from health and safety law those self employed people in low risk occupations that represent no risk to others.
  2. 2) HSE will review its Approved Codes of Practice (ACoP), which, according to Lofsted, are often written in a legalistic manner that confuses, rather than helps, duty-holders. The initial phase of the review should be completed by June 2012.
  3. 3) HSE is to undertake a programme of sector-specific regulation consolidation that will reduce the number of regulations by more than 50%, without reducing protection.
  4. 4) HSE will be given the authority to direct all local authority health and safety inspection and enforcement, ensuring consistency and the targeting of the most risky businesses.
  5. Regulatory provisions that impose strict liability should be reviewed by June 2013 and either qualified with 'reasonably practicable' where strict liability is not absolutely necessary or amended to prevent civil liability attaching to a breach.

Mr Grayling also announced that the government will form a new panel, where businesses can challenge the decisions of health and safety inspectors and get them overturned immediately if they have got it wrong.
'Reclaiming health and safety for ail: An independent review of health and safety regulation' (Cm8219) is available - at £16.75, from The Stationery Office; tel: 0870 600 5522 - or online, at - pdf.

'The Government response to the Lofstedt Report' is at - pdf. Additional background information is at (DWP Information Orderline; tel: 0845 7313233: HSE Infoline; tel: 0845 345 0055).

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