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October 15, 2010

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Lord Young advocates common sense, competence, and compensation crackdown

The Government’s health and safety advisor Lord Young of Graffham, has finally published his highly anticipated review, in which he fulfils promises made in the last few months to deal with ‘the compensation culture’, ‘rogue’ health and safety consultants, and the red-tape ‘burden’.
 
The 64-page report, entitled Common sense, common safety, was issued this morning and contains 36 recommendations relating to, among others, no-win, no-fee lawyers, health and safety practitioners, insurance firms, schools, local authorities, the HSE, and the emergency services.
 
In it, the Tory peer states his aim as “to free businesses from the unnecessary bureaucratic burdens and the fear of having to pay out unjustified damages claims and legal fees. Above all, it means applying common sense not just to compensation to everyday decisions once again.”
 
Prime Minister David Cameron, in his foreword to the review, gives the recommendations it contains his full support, saying: “We’re going to curtail the promotional activities of claims management companies and the compensation culture they help perpetuate. We’re going to end the unnecessary bureaucracy that drains creativity and innovation from our businesses.”
 
The report contains several recommendations that could, as IOSH has commented, mark a real “turning point” for the health and safety regime and profession.
 
While the establishment of an accredited register for suitably qualified health and safety consultants is already underway Lord Young also proposes that the current “raft” of health and safety legislation be consolidated into “a single set of accessible regulations”; that the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) be “re-examined” to determine whether another approach is needed; and that the risk-assessment procedure for “low-hazard” workplaces – which he cites as the likes of offices, classrooms and shops – be simplified.
 
On that last point, the HSE has today (Friday) announced a new online risk assessment that it says will help cut the amount of time it takes to weigh up hazards in offices to just 20 minutes. It will, said the Executive, “help avoid unnecessary paperwork and bureaucracy for office-based businesses”.
 
HSE chair Judith Hackitt commented: “Complying with the law in a low-risk business can be done with common sense by anyone”.
 
Ms Hackitt hailed Lord Young’s report as “an important milestone on the road to recovery for the reputation of real health and safety” and a “tremendous opportunity to refocus health and safety on what it is really about – managing workplace risks”. She also promised that the HSE would be “actively pursuing those recommendations within our remit”.
 
Steve Pointer, head of health and safety policy at the EEF, welcomed an overhaul of RIDDOR – “a law that most don’t comply with, and which the HSE doesn’t enforce” – but consolidating the body of health and safety legislation, he said, would be “a massive job”.
 
IOSH said it is too early to comment on Lord Young’s specific recommendations in detail but the Institution broadly welcomed the report, particularly its aims to clamp down on “absurd” applications of health and safety legislation, and to restore confidence in the profession.
 
Said chief executive, Rob Strange: “We are sick and tired of hearing of misinterpretations of health and safety laws that end in the cancellation of perfectly safe activities. Lord Young is absolutely right: the standing of health and safety has been lowered by ridiculous applications of the rules. This has to end.”
 
Commenting specifically on the proposal to merge food and health and safety inspections, president of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, Stephen Battersby, said: “This is already the norm in many local authorities. Environmental health practitioners are uniquely qualified in both food safety and health and safety.”

Although the review does largely focus on health and safety, the so-called compensation culture is arguably the report’s main target. Despite an acknowledgement that most of the stakeholders consulted as part of the review do not believe one exists, Lord Young feels that this situation, driven by litigation, “is at the heart of the problems that so beset health and safety today”.
 
Consequently, he recommends a number of measures, including restricting the operation of referral agencies and personal-injury lawyers, controlling the volume and type of advertising they can engage in, and introducing a simplified claims procedure.
 
The Consumer Justice Alliance, which was formed to highlight the impact that Lord Young’s proposals will have on injured victims, agreed that unnecessary costs in the legal system need to be tackled but emphasised: “There are thousands of people across this country who have rebuilt their lives thanks to hard-won compensation, so let’s make changes to the system, not dismantle it altogether.”
 
The Tory peer also has the insurance industry in his sights, criticising it for its part in the “over-interpretation” of health and safety legislation by, for example, insisting that businesses in low-hazard environments employ health and safety consultants to carry out full risk assessments. He recommends that this practice should cease, and that there should be consultation with the insurance industry to ensure that “worthwhile” activities are not curtailed on health and safety grounds.
 
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) supported the recommendations, saying that, by implementing them, it will be possible to “create a culture of responsible risk-taking by individuals and businesses, backed by proportionate health and safety regulation, and underpinned by insurance.” The ABI also welcomed the crackdown on irresponsible claims firms, emphasising the importance now of “ensuring a better deal for people who suffer injury where someone else is negligent”.
 
The TUC, however, expressed its “grave disappointment” with the report, lamenting the fact that it “doesn’t contain a single proposal that will reduce the high levels of workplace death, injuries and illness”.
 
Added general secretary, Brendan Barber: “Instead of looking for ways of preventing people being killed an injured, the report uncritically accepts the myths and preconceptions surrounding health and safety, and focuses on dealing with a compensation culture, which the Government accepts does not exist.”
 
Barber also criticised the recommendations to exempt low-risk workplaces from robust risk assessment, saying: “Health and safety is not a throwback to a previous century, or an issue that only affects heavy industry. It is just as much an issue for offices and shops – workplaces that Lord Young dismisses as low risk, despite the evidence of high levels of work-related ill health in these sectors.”
 
The full report can be downloaded from the Cabinet Office website at: www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/

To see SHP editor Tina Weadick’s view on the report click here.

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Blsporty
Blsporty
9 years ago

Lack of interpretation H&S Law.
there are several ambiguous statements. Page 12 ” meeting thier legal obligations & managing risks SFAIRP …… “impose these obligations on firms employing five or fewer” they still have to apply the H&S at work etc Act including safe place of work etc. He further goes on to talk about “number of opportunities …. children to experience risk in a controlled environment” Without assessing the risks how does he arrive at a controlled environment? More to follow.

Blsporty
Blsporty
9 years ago

Surely it should be a sensible approach to H&S ? Do not leave it to a common sense approach , thism is what the issue has been all along. Clearly Lord young’s common sense is different than mine or yours. use a sensible standard approach go for it.

Blsporty
Blsporty
9 years ago

The problem is that he and the rest of the lords etc have Passed the laws. That they now are blaming others for.

Perhaps if they were to listen when attending parliment instaed of sleeping, something just might sink in.

Detvalleyfr_1
Detvalleyfr_1
9 years ago

Two comments:
(i) Hardly any mention of Health, does Lord Young really contemplate scrapping employers responsibility on the use of laptops when working at home….imagine the cost of increased back trouble due to using pcs sat on the sofa or laid n the bed

(iI)No mention of Fie Safety Issues…so low risk offices can forget about fire risk assessment.

Sorry Lord Young, scope to small..IOSH ..opportunity to challenge during implementation of the report..unless you disagree with me.

Graham-Westbury
Graham-Westbury
9 years ago

How can anyone say there is no ‘claims culture’ in the UK when frequently I get phone calls from insurers offering to support a claim for my injury that they have been informed of. I have never had an injury at work in over 30 years.
I like to think that if the insurers are having to get work by cold-calling then perhaps they are finally on the run rtying to get as much as they can before they are closed down.

Hannah
Hannah
9 years ago

Mark Wallace, Managing Director at Evac+Chair International:

“The common sense approach advocated by Lord Young and the steps outlined in his review to cut the ‘compensation culture’ which has arisen, should not be taken as an excuse by employers to neglect their responsibility to the mobility impaired, but a chance to review their procedures to ensure the wellbeing of all staff and visitors.”

Ian
Ian
9 years ago

It’s not business H&S precautions (RA’s) that create impresssion of ridiculous culture, it’s Local Authority OTT controls – and those come from fear of litigation. Hopefully that’s where the recommendations have success – reduce claims culture. MHSWA introduced RA – it got extended out of the workplace and into society in general with LA’s insisting on every village fete type of activity being assessed – that’s where the exercise is done by amateurs. Common sense is good – comes from experience.

Jaymack
Jaymack
9 years ago

Probably is a good idea to ignore the fact that someone could be lying in bed all weekend because of the negligence of their employer and that they may make it back in time on the Monday morning to make the stats look good. Perhaps managers etc need to understand that injuries don’t just last from 9-5 during the week.

Jaymack
Jaymack
9 years ago

Hi Mick. I think that you may be wrong in your interpretation of RIDDOR. None of the scenarios which you have outlined are RIDDOR reportable. You don’t include the day of the accident and you don’t include the weekend if the guy was fit to return to work and carry out his full range of duties even if he is not required to work weekends. Its the same deal if the guys has a holiday booked next day. He may be away on holiday but you still need to determine if he was able to return to work.

Len
Len
9 years ago

As a union member once again the TUC has got its head buried in the sand, more concerned with saving jobs than looking at the realities of life at ground level. Legislation will not reduce deaths it is is the responsibility of staff and management to ensure they show common sense and being responsible for their own actions. Not relying on some one else to look after their safety.

Mschilling
Mschilling
9 years ago

Hooray!! An overhaul of RIDDOR95! About time too – one of the most annoying reguations there has ever been in that people who were not going to work the weekend anyway have to be classed as absent through injury because of the 3 days rule. It is so very difficult to explain to managemnt/clients when a weekend gets included. Thank you!!!
+1 to the other comments by the way!

Mschilling
Mschilling
9 years ago

You miss my point Jim. two examples – 1: Employee is slightly hurt on thursday at 5am, spends 2 minutes at A+E, takes friday sick and comes back on monday (being fit for duty on saturday for eg) its a riddor. 2: Same person is slightly hurt at 8am monday, spends all day at A+E, then takes tuesday and wednesday off – its not a riddor. 1 day lost plus weekend = reportable, 2.99 days lost = not reportable. No sense in that is there? Its a big unnecessary cost to businesses.

Mvdb
Mvdb
9 years ago

I welcome the majority of the reports recommendations and for sometime have promoted “sensible and proportionate” risk management and therefore simple but suitable H,S&W arrangements.
I have at times wondered why some safety professionals often confuse the very people they are meant to be advising or protecting by a work method that can only be described as “smoke and mirrors”!
Lets hope our wonderful profession finally gets some accurate press and the recognition it desreves.

Nigel
Nigel
9 years ago

Mick

Could you give some kind of estimated figure as to how much the situation you describe is costsing, say UK business each year?

Cheers.

NigelB

Rpj
Rpj
9 years ago

I am wondering how the press will manage to interpret this report in a way that will continue their campaign to undermine the standing of the safety profession. No doubt we shall see tomorrow…

Walkie0006
Walkie0006
9 years ago

As usual the H&S profession under fire because there are those local authorities who don’t seem to have the understanding of the H&S regulations. But I despair – again lords writing reports and ministers getting put into positions with no tangible health and safety experience yet commenting on how H&S should be managed – He has written this report, which is to be accepted by all – and I bet he hasn’t even got chartered status – so IOSH, what makes this Lords opinion right !

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