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April 20, 2011

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Health and safety review to look at regulations and compensation

The Department for Work and Pensions has published further details of the draft terms of reference that will govern the independent review of health and safety legislation announced last month.

Led by Professor Ragnar Löfstedt, director of the King’s Centre for Risk Management at King’s College, London, the review will consider the opportunities for reducing the burden of health and safety legislation on UK businesses while maintaining the progress made in improving health and safety outcomes.

With this in mind, it will explore the scope for consolidating, simplifying or abolishing regulations but, at the same time, examine whether a clear link exists between regulation and positive health and safety performance.

Building on Lord Young’s findings regarding the compensation culture, the Löfstedt review will scrutinise whether there is any evidence of inappropriate litigation and compensation arising from health and safety legislation. It will also look at whether changes to legislation could help clarify the legal position of employers in situations where employees act in an irresponsible manner and compromise safety.

Looking further afield, the review will assess whether the requirements of EU directives are being ‘gold-plated’ unnecessarily during their transposition into UK law. Comparisons between the UK’s system and health and safety regimes in other countries will also be reviewed to see if any lessons can be learned.

None of the 16 Acts owned and enforced by the HSE – including the HSWA 1974 – fall under the review team’s remit. Instead, the focus will be on the other statutory instruments owned and enforced by the HSE and its local-authority partners – estimated by the DWP at around 200 – and associated Approved Codes of Practice that provide advice on compliance with health and safety law.

Regulations that are not ‘owned’ by the HSE but are enforced by other bodies – such as the Office of Rail Regulation, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the Environment Agency and the Food Standards Agency – will not be covered. Hence, rules dealing with fire safety, transport safety, product safety and food hygiene will not fall within the review’s scope. Other issues that are widely perceived to be health and safety, such as working time, but are not ‘owned’ by the HSE, will also not be covered.

Blogging about the review yesterday (19 April), Steve Pointer, head of health and safety policy at EEF – the manufacturers’ organisation, described the review as “a good opportunity to address the real issues on the basis of evidence, rather than the knee-jerk response based on supposition that too often dogs health and safety”.

Suggesting that government and HSE efforts to simplify compliance are being undermined by a view from Europe that legislation is “the answer to all ills”, he said he hoped the review would shine a light on the issue and provide “some independent evidence that can help a growing alliance of member states and MEPs change the [European] Commission’s direction”.

IOSH promised to do its utmost to ensure the review team listens to the voice of the health and safety profession, but expressed concern that the terms of reference could duplicate previous work while other issues could be ignored.

Policy and technical director, Richard Jones, highlighted ‘gold-plating’ as a myth that other reviews have debunked, and said work to simplify health and safety regulations has been ongoing since the HSE launched its simplification plan in 2006.

Added Jones: “There is no reference, also, to identifying areas that could benefit from improvement and strengthening. And there seems to be insufficient time for the review to assess over 200 statutory instruments within its scope, and also consult with stakeholders, if it is to report by autumn. We remain concerned that over-simplification could erode essential worker or public protection.”

In conducting the review, Prof Löfstedt will be supported by an advisory panel, which will comprise John Armitt, chair of the Olympic Delivery Authority, Sarah Veale of the TUC, and Dr Adam Marshall of British Chambers of Commerce, as well as legislature representatives of the three main parties.

The review is expected to report to Employment minister, Chris Grayling, in the autumn.

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Filberton
Filberton
11 years ago

It is not litigation but fear of litigation makes us risk adverse. Many are frivilous but settled for fear of cost or the cost of fighting. 1% liability can attract full costs. If the litigant got costs based upon liability & success only, we’d see claims dropped. e.g. trip on a kerb £3,000 damages, £50,000 costs council but if 10% liable (the rest 90% is look where you walk) = £5k council cost, £3k-£45k = £42k loss to litigant. (large claims or full liability would not be affected)

Grk1951
Grk1951
11 years ago

I think that if we involve the workers on site in the prepartion of the documents that are going to be followed on site, and they are made to feel part of the process, instead of having a them and us attitude, there would be greater acceptance of the health and safety implemented on site. Also Senior Management should not go to site to find something wrong, if it is a safe site then say it is a safe site.

Kelleeandsteve
Kelleeandsteve
11 years ago

Does anyone else think this is just crazy? This is going to end in chaos and employers will completely take the mickey and exploit their employees more than they already are. Well done, this is now making way for production over people’s safety.

Maxbancroft
Maxbancroft
11 years ago

I wonder how the government will react if/when the review concludes that everything is generally OK and the low fatality and serious accident rates in the UK are a result of clear regulations, a diligent regulator issuing useful guidance and codes of practice – not to mention a network of knowledgable H&S professionals?

Peter
Peter
11 years ago

The review can ‘shine as many lights’ as it wants on H&S laws, but I believe it will be wishful thinking to get the EU Commission to change direction – power unused is power lost, as the old saying goes. In fact, on the same page as this report, under Related Articles, item 2 is the news: EU orders UK to tighten asbestos laws. Case rested?

Pike
Pike
11 years ago

I wish these idiots would either tell the truth or wake up and smell the roses. Since Grayling and Cameron have decided to reduce the burden and H & S is the evil that is keeping industry back, there has been a 25% increase in fatalities alone. They certainly don’t care and if regulation and enforcement doesn’t make sure employers comply why do they fime firms for lat VAT returns?? I can see our role as trying to pick up the pieces in 5 years time when we have a competent government in power.

Tudor
Tudor
11 years ago

There is comment about workers being more responsible for thier actions and a small comment on ‘Ambulance Chasers’, but there is no comment on members of the public who present frivolous or unfounded claims, particularly with Local authorities as they know that fighting them is more expensive that than paying out and so get thier £500 to a £1000 for no good reason and those figures mount up……