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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