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June 17, 2012

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Minister hails progress on health and safety regulatory reform

Getting rid of regulations won’t undermine the UK’s good record on health and safety but will improve its bad record on red tape, said Employment minister Chris Grayling, as he launched a progress report on implementation of the Government’s health and safety reforms.

Speaking to a gathering of representatives from some of the country’s main trade and industry bodies in London this morning (18 June) the minister emphasised what is being done to help their members – particularly small and medium-sized businesses – understand and comply with their health and safety duties.

He referred to the progress made so far on implementing the recommendations of both Professor Ragnar Löfstedt and Lord Young of Graffham in the wake of their recent reviews of the health and safety system in the UK. The 29-page report – published on the DWP website today – details what has been completed, is ongoing, and is yet to be initiated with regard to six areas for reform identified in the Löfstedt review, published at the end of last year, and the 35 recommendations made by Lord Young in Common sense, common safety, published in October 2010.

‘Closed-out’ tasks include the HSE’s evaluation of the CDM Regulations 2007, publication of new guidance to clarify PAT testing requirements, the establishment of challenge panels to allow for cases of incorrect application of health and safety legislation to be addressed, and the extension of the reporting period under RIDDOR 1995 from three to seven days.

Speaking to the minister after the event SHP asked him why the Government continues to use negative terms like ‘burden’, ‘monster’ and ‘jobs-destroyer’ in relation to health and safety. He said: “I can give you a prime example of how it is a burden. I recently visited a small manufacturing firm in my constituency and they showed me their health and safety manual, which was 18 inches thick – ridiculous! I took it back to the HSE, which said that 90 per cent of it was unnecessary!

“It is an inescapable fact that there is a big burden out there that is unnecessary and has to go.”

With regard to its effect on jobs creation, the minister added: “Health and safety must be based on risk, not supposition. Sometimes, EU legislation goes too far down the regulatory approach and away from sensible risk assessment. This can do serious damage and cost employment opportunities. If we try to legislate out all risk, we will lose jobs to other places.”

SHP asked what action the Government will take if work-related fatalities continue to rise (there was a 16-per-cent jump last year on the 2009/10 total, and at 132, the provisional figure for the first three quarters of the 2011/12 reporting period is already 77 per cent of last year’s total). Said Mr Grayling: “These incidents pre-date our reforms.

“In terms of the recent rise, you have to look at trends over a longer period than just one year. For example, it could be down to the nature of the climate in agriculture. If the upward trend continues long term, clearly the HSE will look at this very carefully.”

Asked how the Government could reassure hard-working health and safety professionals that it is with them and not against them, Mr Grayling said: “It’s all about the professionalisation of health and safety and removal of myths and nonsense. Some of the dumb stories come from misrepresentation but others are the result of stupid decisions.

“My approach is to get rid of the cowboys and concentrate on a core of highly-qualified people. The industry can help by ensuring that those within it take proportionate and sensible decisions. And any health and safety consultants who produce 18-inch-thick manuals need to ask themselves: am I bringing my profession into disrepute?”

As announced in the June issue of SHP, the minister has asked Professor Löfstedt to provide a ‘one year on’ assessment of how well the recommendations in his review have been implemented so far, to be submitted in January next year.
 

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Alexhoward_121
Alexhoward_121
7 years ago

“It is an inescapable fact that there is a big burden out there that is unnecessary and has to go.”! Absolutely – just roll on the next elections!

This ‘elf an safety gorn maaad’ mentality comes from the press (fabricated expressly to sell their rags!) not true safety professionals!

I wonder if this Grayling character has read the articles in SHP about the poor sod’s that have been dragged into unguarded machinery recently, and does he realise what the costs to the state are from them??

Andrew
Andrew
7 years ago

If a ‘small manufacturing firm’ is stupid enough to produce an 18 inch thick H&S manual they deserve to go under. The root cause of the problems with H&S in this country is caused by companies being unwilling to develop appropriate H&S skills in house and relying on dodgy external consults and advisers.
PS the UK does not have a reputation for ‘red tape’ but is regarded as the 7th easiest country in the world to do business in by the World Bank Business Report.

Andrew
Andrew
7 years ago

A useful example of where employers do not interpret H&S laws appropriately is within the schooling system as they are afraid of civil actions against them. I have just received a letter from my 5 year old son’s school that teachers can no longer apply sunscreen to them. Surely they have been vetted as safe to work with children and isn’t the risk of sunstroke/sunburn outweighed by the risk from civil claims??? My aim is to bring common sense to everyone with whom I do business in the H&S field!

Bob
Bob
7 years ago

We are a Civil Eng Contractor undertaking Road, Bridge, Sub Structures, Super Structures, Renewables and other such work throughout the UK and Ireland, yet our references are not adequate to be considered for LA work, without producing endless paper evidence (usually 2 copies) of SHEQ systems and procedures etc.

And then they ask about sustainability ethics?

We have had to submit a complete forrest of ethics.

And at the end of it all we will be judged upon price not competence

Complete BS

Bob
Bob
7 years ago

Forrests of paperwork do not convey competence?

I can put what I like on paper, and claim all sorts of wonderful stats.

Deliberately ommit others that are less faverable, all in order that someone, whom will never meet me or my fellow company cohorts, can then determine our competence.

Most of the evidence I have seen is suspect, many times we see failures by serious players in our Industry with realms of paperwork, but little practical application of basic risk controls.

This must change.

Bob
Bob
7 years ago

“These incidents pre-date our reforms”.

So how does the removal of regulatory requirement improve this scenario?

Unemployment is up on previous years, but injury and fatlities are also up from a reduced labour force.

And given that construction is massively reduced in man hours worked, (high risk activity) the stats do not equate to a relaxation of regulations assisting improvement?

And given the 8000 / yr deaths from work related cancer, you have to question the validity of reforms?

Chris
Chris
7 years ago

I work as a H&S consultant – whilst an 18 inch think document is obviously overboard – when you tot up policies, safe working procedures, general and specific risk asssessments, tool box talks, training records, maintaince of plant/inspection reocrds, fire safety checks, audit reports, asbestos surveys etc you soon end up with a failry henty wad of paperwork. Try and get any accreditation (Chas, Safe Contractor etc) without all that!!

David
David
7 years ago

I appreciate that H&S can be a “burden” to small businesses but most of this “burden” is down to the interpretation and not the legislation.
For a small manufacturing company to have an 18 inch thick folder is just nonsense and is nothing to do with legislation as the hSE pointed out.
I think it is a major concern that the minister still uses this kind of language when talking about Health and Safety and it will be interesting to see how the figures stack up in 12 months time

Glyn
Glyn
7 years ago

Talking of cowboys, why can’t ministers resist irresponsible sound bites! It’s tabloid government and it drains my confidence in our government. I can’t help thinking that the Government’s and Mr Grayling’s ‘health and safety monster’ will end up just like many other mythical monsters – few believe it ever existed.

‘Claim chasing monsters’ – would be more accurate and closer to the core of the problem I think. Has the government done anything about this yet ? I haven’t noticed

Healthandsafety
Healthandsafety
7 years ago

The government speaks of getting rid of the cowboys, and concentrating on highly-quailifed people.

It seems now that the HSE has been dismantaled it is no longer considered for advise on health and safety issues.

The highley qualified people need to be elected by the people and should not be cherry picked is there is a lack of trust between workers/voters and MR Grayling.

Jkirby
Jkirby
7 years ago

In my LA we advise schools that they can apply sunscreen, plasters etc to children. Despite official communiqués we still find a large number of schools do not allow this to happen. The school will tell the parents it is H&S and will that the advice has come from the LA! I have the same issue with paddling in the sea which I actively encourage, but I know one or two schools will advise parents the LA do not allow it!! Very frustrating.. We are far from the only LA with this issue.

Major
Major
7 years ago

Mr Kennedy, it is not just local authorities who want ‘evidence’ but also accredited members of Safety Schemes in Procurement (SSiP) and dare I say it, some of the major contractors here in the UK.

The interpretation of ‘sufficient and suitable’ appears to be as flexible as any box-ticker wishes it to be. Not as an organisation perceives its requirements for health and safety.

There remains a demanding and controversial journey ahead for all in business

Mark
Mark
7 years ago

Both Lofstedt and Young indicated a need to reform the insurance sector, where is the negative language aimed at those companies that are propagating the “blame/claim culture”.

Ray
Ray
7 years ago

Whilst I suspect the 18 inch h&s manual is an exageration, there are many out there which are very large indeed. It is true that many consultants provide large volumes of documents some of which are not really necessary. That said, the size of the undertaking has little bearing on what policies, practices, RAs and other documents which are needed.

Very often we read on these pages about evidence for audits and potential claims. This has resulted in a large volumes of paper as evidence .

Rob
Rob
7 years ago

Mr Graylings comments about the ‘burden’ of the 18″ thick HS Manual have nothing to do with the number of Regulations. I have seen such manuals that have been written by big consultancies, and I fully agree they do nothing except destroy the rain forests.
There are many consultants out here who try to tread the sensible path on the size and complexity of the manual, but surely the onus is on the company management not to be swayed by smooth talking salesmen into buying huge safety manuals.