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 Health and safety inspections to be cut for low risk businesses

Health and safety inspections to be cut for low risk businesses

16 September 2011 Email this article

In a bid to cut red tape and reduce bureaucracy, ministers have announced that thousands of businesses deemed as low risk are to be made exempt from health and safety inspections. The government plans to scrap or change more than 3,000 regulations, aiming to relieve these businesses of the unnecessary burden that these checks place on them.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said he backs all of the proposed reforms and wants to see them implemented. Following these regulations, it will only be those businesses seen as high risk that will face health and safety inspections, such as construction and food production - or if they have had an accident or a track record of poor performance.

Included in the recommendations from Lord Young was the procedure for risk assessment in the workplace and reporting accidents. He called to simplify the risk assessment procedures for low hazard workplaces, through simpler risk assessment tools on the HSE website and to change the way in which businesses report accidents – extending the period before which an injury or accident needs to be reported to seven days. It was suggested that the HSE should re-examine the operation of Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995, to see if this is the best way of giving an accurate national representation of workplace accidents.

The new rules will come into place in April 2013 and will apply to businesses such as shops, offices, pubs and clubs. Whilst ministers say this will stop the burden of these checks, cutting bureaucracy and saving companies millions of pounds - trade unions claim that it risks the safety of employees and customers.

Ministers say that legislation will be introduced next month, to ensure that businesses will only be held liable for civil damages in health and safety cases if they can be shown to have acted negligently.

Business Minister Michael Fallon said the overhaul would also include changes to rules on employment, but denied that the moves would reduce job security.

"We're not going back to 'fire at will', where somebody can be fired just because you don't like them," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

He said the aim was to encourage negotiated settlements between firms and workers, rather than industrial tribunals. He said that the move injects "fresh impetus" into the government's drive to cut red tape.

"We have identified the red tape and now we are going to cut it," he said.

Business groups have welcomed the plan.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said businesses need to focus on creating jobs and growth rather than "being tied up in unnecessary red tape".

He said: "I've listened to those concerns and we're determined to put common sense back into areas like health and safety, which will reduce costs and fear of burdensome inspections."

Alexander Ehmann, head of regulatory policy at the Institute of Directors, said the announcement was "good news" if it marked "the beginning, not the end, of the deregulation story".