CUTTING RED TAPE OR CUTTING CORNERS? REGULATIONS SCRAPPED AND INSPECTIONS CUT
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) may be announcing plans to tighten up inspections on construction sites, but it seems that from April 2013, ‘low risk’ businesses will be exempt from visits from their visits.
Ministers have announced that they will scrap or change more than 3,000 regulations applying to businesses such as pubs, shops, offices and clubs, with the aim of relieving these businesses of the unnecessary burden that these checks place on them.
These changes mean that only those businesses deemed to be high risk – such as construction and food production - will face health and safety inspections. Businesses will also continue being inspected if they have had an accident or have a track record of poor performance.
Opinions on the reforms have been mixed. While organisations representing businesses such as the CBI believe the changes will help to cut the bureaucracy that stifles small businesses, trade unions claim that any relaxation of health and safety rules will inevitably put employees and customers at risk.
Ministers also said legislation would 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.
While it is indisputable that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to health and safety is not appropriate, and that some businesses are naturally much lower risk than others, in light of David Cameron’s stated aim of “killing off health and safety culture for good”, many fear that this is just the start of a creep towards the relaxation of health and safety rules applying to all workplaces.
Given the myriad stories about injuries and deaths on construction sites that we see in the papers each month, we sincerely hope this is not the case.