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October 7, 2013

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Workplace safety ‘top target’ of Freedom Day, argues campaigner

A safety campaigner for the Hazards Campaign has criticised the Government’s ‘Freedom Day’ arguing that workplace safety was the top target of the government’s “attack on ‘red tape'”.

Hilda Palmer‘Freedom Day’, which took place on 1 October, saw reformed regulations come into force as part of the ‘Red Tape Challenge’, which is designed to reduce the bureaucracy of various regulations.

The reforms include changes to the RIDDOR and first aid regulations.

Hilda Palmer of the Hazards Campaign said the event marked “freedom from having to give a damn about health and safety day”.

The major health and safety reforms introduced this month include:

  • freeing responsible employers from being held liable for workplace accidents and injuries where they have taken all reasonable steps to protect their employees, through reforms to civil liability rules for breaches of health and safety law;
  • improving third party harassment legislation, so that employers will no longer be explicitly liable for third party harassment of staff, for example, by customers or members of the public;
  • simplifying the mandatory reporting of workplace injuries for businesses, while ensuring that the data collected gives an accurate pictures of workplace incidents; and
  • removing the requirement for the HSE to approve training and qualifications of appointed first-aid personnel.

Palmer added: “Workplace safety has been the top target of the government’s attack on ‘red tape’, or, to you or me, the regulations that save our necks. There are lots of ‘burdens’ arguments given in justifying the move, all bogus.”

She also said that properly enforced health and safety regulations not only save lives, they are good for the bottom line and protect responsible businesses from being undercut by the rogues.

The Trade Union Congress has argued that these reforms will include barring ‘strict liability’ compensation claims for workplace injuries, making it more difficult for employees to pursue workplace harassment claims against their employers.

Business minister Michael Fallon, said: “Each successive Freedom Day is helping to give hard-pressed businesses the breathing space they need to grow and create jobs. For small firms, less time spent filling in forms means more time planning the next project, winning the next contract or looking for the next young recruit.”

Fallon called for more to be done to make Britain a ‘low-regulation, pro-business nation’ and said he would press for more red-tape cuts in Europe as well as the UK.

Group marketing director of Balreed Digitec Ltd, Gary Downey, said: “Simpler health and safety rules mean we can focus on growing our business and supporting our clients. The reduced requirements of health and safety legislation will enable us to become more efficient by reducing the cost and burden of compliance.”

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