Freedom from Safety – At What Cost?

On behalf of Attwaters Jameson Hill posted in Uncategorised on Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Business Minister Michael Fallon recently plans that more common sense cuts to red tape are to be implemented as part of the government’s drive to make the UK the best place to start and grow a business.

Business Minister Michael Fallon recently plans that more common sense cuts to red tape are to be implemented as part of the government’s drive to make the UK the best place to start and grow a business.

These major reforms aimed at reducing the burden on employers 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;
•    simplifying the mandatory reporting of workplace injuries for businesses, while ensuring that the data collected gives an accurate picture of workplace incidents;

The government believes that removal of red tape will improve Britain’s reputation as a low-regulation, pro-business nation. Simpler Health and Safety rules mean the country can focus on growing our business and supporting our clients. The reduced requirements of Health and Safety legislation will enable businesses to become more efficient by reducing the cost and burden of compliance.
This all sounds very sensible and may improve the reputation of British business. However, this must be tempered by the news released recently from the Health & Safety Executive.

Their Construction Inspectors recently carried out a major inspection and enforcement initiative targeting the refurbishment sector.  During this nationwide campaign the Inspectors visited 2,607 sites where refurbishment or repair work was taking place.

Rather worryingly, Inspectors found basic safety standards were not being met on 1,105 sites. On 644 sites, practices were so poor that enforcement action was necessary to protect workers. The HSE served 539 prohibition notices ordering dangerous practices to stop immediately and 414 improvement notices were issued requiring standards to improve.

Whilst the HSE believes that those who recklessly endanger the health and lives of their workforce can expect to face tough consequences, the ability to impose such sanctions has been significantly eroded following such seismic changes to Health and Safety legislation.

Almost 50% of those sites recently inspected did not meet even basic safety standards. Prosecutions for workplace accidents are already few and far between. By cutting “red-tape” even further, negligent employers will be even less accountable for their actions. These latest statistics from the HSE suggest that employers are already cutting corners with health and safety requirements but at what cost? The legal system should ensure that the innocent are protected but the continuing changes to legislation puts vulnerable workers at even greater risk.

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