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October 27, 2014

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Viewpoints on the Deregulation Bill

The controversial Deregulation Bill was voted through the House of Lords without any amendments to its first clause, the element of the Bill that concerns safety organisations such as IOSH. We asked prominent figures in health and safety what they thought the impact of the Bill will be when it comes into force.


As a self-employed health and safety consultant I employ a small army of self-employed support staff; other specialists, trainers, illustrators, web designers, IT consultants. Their numbers and work activities would not have been conceived of in 1974, so it is perhaps right to review it.

I believe, however, that the decision by their lordships is a symbolic totem to the idea of deregulation and will not have much material impact. After all, a self-employed gas fitter still has to be Gas Safe Registered whether or not HASAWA applies. Likewise, my web designer is unlikely now to trade down to a poorly designed work station because he now can. IOSH’s objection is understandable but work practices have moved on since 1974.

Simon Garrett MA CFIOSH FIIRSM Dip2.OSH, is managing director, X-Venture Global Risk Solutions


Clearly clause one is a controversial feature of the Bill, though it may be more symbolic than substantive. The onus placed by sections two and three of HSWA 1974 on businesses to take ‘reasonably practicable’ steps to minimise risk to self, employees and others is flexible enough to reflect the degree of risk involved in any particular business. The burden on the self-employed working in areas posing very little risk is usually therefore likely to be quite small.

However, removing certain categories of self-employed from this general duty does risk confusion, particularly where the development of a particular person’s business might bring them outside of exempt categories without them appreciating that. Despite compelling arguments being put forward to this effect in the Lords debate, it seems clause one is destined to be driven through to the statute book in more or less its current terms.

Nick McMahon is head of health and safety for RPC


The latest version of the Deregulation Bill will result in some individuals being totally exempt from the health and safety regime prescribed by the 1974 Act, but the numbers that will be fully exempted are likely to be relatively low and the risk they pose to themselves or others in their work activities will equally be comparatively low.

For this group, they are highly unlikely to ever have been the subject of enforcement action under the current law. Those who are self-employed and who conduct an undertaking of a prescribed description will remain within the regulatory system and this is where the risk to others truly exists. In a time when we talk so much about sensible and proportionate risk management the consequences of the Bill passing through Parliament are unlikely therefore to be as significant as might at first be thought.

Kevin Bridges is partner at Pinsent Masons LLP


It is disappointing that this got through this stage but not unsurprising given the current political climate. In my opinion it is a naive attempt to reduce a legislative burden that will in fact not reap huge benefits to business and will potentially expose many vulnerable workers to unacceptable risks to their health, safety and overall welfare.

There is an uninformed minority who are constantly reinforcing the view that health and safety is in some way excessive and a barrier to business. Misinterpretation of legal requirements is the issue here and more effort should go into examining that issue, rather than tinkering with legislation in this way.

We’ve made huge progress in the field of health and safety and are a world leader, something for which we should be justly proud. Reducing workers protection in this way feels like a regression that erodes our health and safety standards at a time when other countries are fighting to raise theirs.

Dr Shaun Lundy is academic portfolio leader for occupational safety, health, hygiene & environment programmes at the University of Greenwich


We discussed the topic of deregulation during the Big Debate at IOSH 2014.  Our panel of distinguished experts felt that deregulating health and safety was not a good idea for the UK.  When the audience of several hundred safety practitioners was asked for their view, they felt the same, with over 90% of attendees voting against deregulation.

As chairman of the debate and as a safety practitioner I’m deeply concerned that the Government has is moving towards deregulation.  This move will lead to confusion, lower standards and, without doubt, an increase in workplace injuries across the UK.

It’s particularly disappointing that on the 40th anniversary of the Health & Safety at Work Act – regarded as one of the finest legal instruments for safety in the world – we see this significant step backwards.   As the Bill now moves forward through Parliament each and every stakeholder must raise their voices to ensure that this misguided action is halted before it deconstructs the excellent progress our country has made in becoming one of the very safest in the world.

Andrew Sharman is Vice Chairman of the Board of IOSH, and Principal of Andrew Sharman Safety & Risk Consulting

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