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August 1, 2011

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Löfstedt Review receives evidence on health and safety law reform

To merge or not to merge – that is the question the man tasked by the Government with reviewing Britain’s health and safety laws will be pondering over the coming months, as he analyses the evidence submitted by stakeholders last week.

Prof Ragnar Löfstedt is due to report to Employment minister Chris Grayling later this year on opportunities for reducing the “burden” of health and safety legislation through consolidating, simplifying, or abolishing regulations.

IOSH was one of the organisations that submitted a response to the review by the 29 July deadline, in which it warned that there is “no scope for cuts” to legislation. Said the Institution’s executive director of policy, Dr Luise Vassie: “We don’t see cuts as the answer – previous reviews of health and safety legislation have already weeded out redundant rules. Our research, evidence and member survey all confirm our view that health and safety law itself isn’t at fault – it’s the way it is sometimes interpreted and applied that’s the problem.”

But IOSH did acknowledge that some regulations could be merged – for example, the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations with the Consultation with Employees Regulations, and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations with the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations.

Explained Dr Vassie: “Simplifying, not changing, some regulations would streamline what we already have, cutting down the number of laws and arguably making it easier for bosses to understand what they need to do.”

RoSPA, however, warned against merging regulations “purely for cosmetic reasons” and urged Prof Löfstedt to look at where there may still be significant gaps in health and safety law – for example, accident investigation and work-related road risk.

The Society’s occupational safety advisor, Roger Bibbings, commented: “The Löfstedt team needs to take a wider view of current challenges in health and safety and suggest imaginative solutions. Health and safety law and standards are important and are essential to safeguard people’s lives and health. The existing legal structure and the underpinning guidance has been based on literally hundreds of thousands of hours of detailed research, development and consultation.”

The Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA), on the other hand, strongly supports consolidation of regulations “where it is sensible to do so”. One possible route it suggested is to consolidate the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to incorporate the core requirements of a host of other instruments, such as COSHH 2002, the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, the DSE Regulations 1992, the PPE Regulations 1992, and the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

The ECA said primary legislation would not be needed to consolidate these instruments as “the process could be carried out through existing regulatory reform legislation”.

EEF – the manufacturers’ organisation, in its response, concentrated on the compensation system, citing it as the source of much of the media hype and public concern about health and safety. It also drew attention to recent directives from the European union, which, it said, were not evidence-based.

The EEF’s head of health and safety, Steve Pointer, explained: “There is much that is right about the UK health and safety legislation and should not be changed. However, the way that it is interpreted in the compensation system is serving the interests of neither employers nor employees and is to blame for many of the problems laid at its door.”

He continued: “At European level, there has also been a movement away from a risk-based approach. The UK government must press the Commission to focus activity on improving compliance with existing legislation covering risks, rather than on producing new legislation that brings costs but little, if any, benefit.”

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12 years ago

Yep alll well and good but in effect we are doing nothing new and wasting more money. A roman courtier once said:

“We trained hard—but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we were reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing, and what a wonderful method it can be for creating the
illusion of progress while actually producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.” Gauis Petronius Arbiter (ca 27-66)