Deregulation Bill: safety exemptions voted through
Deregulation and safety: our infographic on the self-employed, some of whom are now exempt from health and safety law.
The House of Lords has voted in favour of government plans to deregulate areas of health and safety.
Clause one of the government’s Deregulation Bill includes plans to make certain self-employed workers exempt from health and safety law.
The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health has been lobbying against the clause, raising concerns that the exemption could lead to confusion, a decline in standards and an increase in the risk of injury or illness at work.
The Bill and its contents were debated in the House of Lords yesterday (21 October). Peers voted 253 to 175 in favour of keeping Clause one part of the Bill.
Richard Jones, head of policy and public affairs at IOSH, said: “IOSH is very disappointed that the Lords do not seem to have understood the serious problems that this misguided and unnecessary exemption would cause and have not voted for its removal. We will need to redouble our efforts in making the case for its removal as the Bill continues its journey through Parliament.”
The TUC has also opposed Clause one and lobbied against its inclusion. Hugh Robertson, senior policy officer for health and safety at the TUC, said: “It is incredible that the Lords managed to ignore all the clear evidence that this clause would make the workplace a less safe place, would increase confusion, and was not what had originally been proposed by Professor Lofstedt in his report. The TUC will continue to strongly oppose this measure as it continues its way through the Parliamentary process.”
Lord McKenzie of Luton, shadow communities and local government spokesperson, tabled an amendment for the removal of Clause one from the Bill during the debate.
He said: “We have a first-class health and safety system in the UK. We should be alarmed at what is now proposed in Clause one”
Referring to the impact of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 during the debate, Lord McKenzie of Luton added: “After 40 years of progress we see the Government trying to unravel part of the health and safety system. We should resist Clause one and strike it from the Bill.”
The latest version of the Deregulation Bill as it stands will amend health and safety law to exempt certain self-employed from the general health and safety duty for themselves and non-employees, except if undertaking ‘prescribed activities’.
These ‘prescribed activities’ include a list high hazard or high risk sector activities, such as agriculture and construction. But many self-employed who may pose a risk to others will be exempt.
The Löfstedt recommendation proposed exempting those self-employed whose ‘work activities pose no potential risk of harm to others’.
Organisations such as Suzy Lamplugh Trust, the LGA and Unite have also expressed concerns about Clause 12, which was also voted through. This will allow Taxi firms to sub-contract jobs to operators licensed in different districts. The organisations argue that it would make it almost impossible for licensing officials to enforce regulations, potentially posing a risk to passengers – particularly women.
“You could be licensed in Liverpool and work in London,” said Unite lead national rep Tommy McIntyre. “Local licensing authorities won’t be able to enforce their licensing safeguards – they won’t be able to control public safety.”
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