Red tape holds the nation together…

It could be argued that media ridicule of Health & Safety actually risks making our lives more dangerous. Back in March, Marcus Weatherby took a look at our early steps towards reform…

Red tape holds the nation together” was the slogan devised in the BBC programme Yes Minister to extol its virtues. But red tape can also hold the nation up, and has always been unpopular and seen as unnecessary and wasteful.

With a view to unwinding some of it, the Government is to review all health and safety (H&S) laws. They then want to remove any that place an unnecessary burden on business. The Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions – Chris Grayling – recently announced changes to the UK’s H&S system, which included the following:

a.) Responsible employers will no longer face automatic H&S inspections. Such inspections should instead focus on high risk environments such as energy, nuclear and chemical industry sites.

b.) Rogue employers who endanger public and employee safety will also have to pay for the costs of the investigation into their activities.

c.) The Government wants to eliminate ‘cowboy’ H&S consultants who are unqualified, yet still responsible for many of our most inappropriate health and safety recommendations.

A new online package, ‘Health and Safety Made Simple’, will help small and low risk employers find all the help they need in one place. This should make it easier for them to achieve basic, bureaucracy-free H&S management in their workplaces.

Yes, the rules do need simplifying… but they also serve a valuable purpose. They provide a structure which ensures that employers have regard to their employees’ health and safety. And you’d be wrong to think that the rules themselves are to blame for red tape. Because it’s often more how companies put them into practice that’s at the root of the problem.

Focusing on the ‘high risk’ sectors of chemical energy and construction will come at a price if that means ignoring other sectors. Removing the threat of the automatic H&S inspection for other sectors hardly encourages compliance with legislation. And there’s a real danger that the tone the government is setting might encourage a ‘business first- safety second’ ethos. In a recession, small companies are under pressure to make short cuts to boost profits, and H&S is a frequent casualty.

Significantly , these simplification proposals come in the same month that the first company was convicted under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. The company in question , Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings Ltd, was not in the high risk group identified by the government. But a young man of 27 was killed at work, nevertheless.

If you’d like to know more about these changes, and how they might affect you at work, you can contact someone who knows via our website:

We’ll be happy to help if we can.

Employment, Marcus Weatherby,
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