Report suggests half of all Health & Safety rules should be abolished

The Government-commissioned review, led by ProfessorLofstedt of King’s College London, looked at the scope for ‘reducing the burdenof health and safety regulation on business while maintaining the progress madein improving health and safety outcomes’.

The Lofstedt review has concluded that the problems lie morewith the interpretation and application of regulations rather than theircontent, with this leading to several instances where regulations aimed atcovering real risks are being used to cover trivial ones. Professor Lofstedtmakes several recommendations aimed at streamlining health and safetyregulation and cutting down on, what is seen as, needless bureaucracy.

One of the key recommendations made is for an exemption fromhealth and safety law to be introduced for self-employed people whose workposes no risk of harm to others. The Lofstedt review suggests that thisexemption could benefit up to a million people. The review also recommendsenacting legislation giving the HSE responsibility to direct the near 400 localauthorities who currently deal with monitoring low-risk environments in a moveto improve consistency in the application of health and safety regulation.

The most important change however may come from theGovernment’s approach to streamline and simplify health and safety regulation.Upon the publication of the review, the Government said they will launch aconsultation into the abolition of more than half of the 200 or so regulationscurrently in place over the next three years – with the first regulations beingremoved within the next few months. Specific regulations which the reviewrecommends are revoked include the Notification of Tower Cranes Regulations2010 and the Construction (Head Protection) Regulations 1989. Furthermore,Professor Lofstedt recommends that several regulations are amended, clarifiedor reviewed, including the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and DangerousOccurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR) (click here for more information); theConstruction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and the Work at HeightRegulations 2005.

One thing the report does note is that the ability to reduceregulation in the UK will be heavily limited by the duty to comply withEuropean law. What is therefore suggested by Professor Lofstedt is that the UKGovernment engages closely with the European Commission to try and ensure thatthe correct approach is taken.

The reaction from the business world has been largelypositive with Dr Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers ofCommerce, saying businesses would welcome the conclusions aimed at reducingsome of the unnecessary burdens placed on them.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) alsoreacted positively, with chief executive Tom Mullarkey approving of thefindings of Professor Lofstedt. He said the RoSPA were glad that the reportshowed that the UK system was largely fit for purpose, although they agreedthat there was always scope for improvement and a reduction in repetitive andunnecessary regulation. The RoSPA were also pleased with the recommendationthat the HSE control local authority enforcement of certain regulations,although they warned caution on the implementation of an exemption from healthand safety law for the self-employed.

Further positive reaction came for Sir Merrick Cockell,chairman of the Local Government Association, who said the organisation waslooking forward to working more closely with the HSE going forward, with a moreconsistent approach being developed.

The reaction has not all been positive, however, with Unionbosses slamming the proposals. The TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber hassaid the Government should forget about tinkering with regulations and focus ontaking steps to improve Britain’s health and safety record. George Guy, fromthe building worker’s union Ucatt, was also sceptical, saying that the focuswas on reducing burdens on businesses rather than on improving the safety ofworkers.

The Institution of Occupation Safety and Health had alukewarm reaction to the news saying that although they were in favour of amore simplistic approach to regulation, they could not ‘see the scope forreducing the number by half without potentially putting workers and the publicunder increased risk of injury or ill health’.

This article first appeared in Law-Now, CMS CameronMcKenna's free online information service, and has been reproduced with theirpermission. For more information about Law-Now, click here. http://www.law-now.com/law-now/