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Health and safety inspections will be cut by a third
Published:  21 March, 2011

The Government is planning to cut the number of health and safety inspections by at least a third as part of a package of changes to Britain’s health and safety system announced by employment minister, Chris Grayling. The changes are designed to ease regulatory burdens on business.

In future, health and safety regulation will focus on high-hazard sites and tackling rogue employers and consultants, rather than “tying up the vast majority of Britain’s businesses in unnecessary red tape and regulations”.

Under the plans:
♦  Responsible employers will no longer face automatic health and safety inspections. Instead inspectors will focus on high-risk locations, such as energy facilities, and on rogue employers who are putting the safety of their staff and the public at risk. Employers who endanger public and employee safety will have to pay for the costs of the investigation into their activities.
♦  Ministers are planning to eliminate unqualified “cowboy” health and safety consultants who, they say, are responsible for many of the UK’s most inappropriate health and safety recommendations. A new register of qualified consultants will exclude those who are untrained or give false advice.
♦  The Government is launching a review of all existing health and safety law with the aim of scrapping measures that are not needed and put an unnecessary burden on business. The review will publish its findings in the autumn.
♦  A new online package, Health and Safety Made Simple, will help small and low-risk employers to achieve a basic, bureaucracy-free level of health and safety management.

Announcing the plans last month, Grayling (above) said: “Of course it is right to protect employees in the workplace, but Britain’s health and safety culture is also stifling business and holding back economic growth. The purpose of health and safety regulation is to protect people at work, and rightly so. But we need common sense at the heart of the system, and these measures will help root out the needless burden of bureaucracy.

“This will help us make Britain a more growth focused, entrepreneurial nation,” he added. “By reducing unnecessary red tape we can encourage businesses to come and invest in the UK, creating jobs and opportunities when we need them most.”

The Government’s plans have been welcomed by EEF, the manufacturers’ association. “Whilst much health and safety legislation is fit for purpose,” says Steve Pointer, the EEF’s head of health and safety, “some areas remain a problem and this review has the potential to resolve anomalies, reduce burdens and so help boost growth. This is particularly true of more recent EU directives and proposals where, after initially establishing a good approach, the European Commission continues to propose more and more legislation that complicates the picture, imposes burdens on businesses, but does nothing to protect employees. This is severely undermining the positive approach of the government and the Health and Safety Executive.”

But the Trades Union Congress has attacked the proposals as “being in no-one’s interests” and warning that they could result in more deaths and injuries. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber says that “employers need to know that there is the possibility of a safety inspector visiting, otherwise there will be no incentive for them to ensure they are protecting their workers.

“Removing proactive inspections from a large number of workplaces means that employers can get away with ignoring the law until they kill or seriously injure someone,” he adds. “`The proposals are not only bad for workers` health and safety, they will also be bad for the economy as the health service and benefits system have to deal with the aftermath of more injuries and illnesses caused through unsafe work. The strategy is not about better regulation, it is about deregulation and is all part of a bigger plan to reduce the rights that workers have to safety and fair treatment.”

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