The Government has published a review on the current state of health and safety legislation in the UK, entitled Common Sense – Common Safety.
The report identifies numerous factors that currently combine to create an adverse climate for what it considers to be the proper application of health and safety, and sets out recommendations to free businesses from unnecessary bureaucratic burdens and the fear of having to pay out unjustified damages claims and legal fees. These include measures aimed at curbing the ‘compensation culture’ driven by legislation, which the report identifies as being at the root of the problem.
With regard to workplace health and safety laws, the report recognises that the cost of compliance differs significantly depending on the size of the organisation, with the burden falling disproportionately on smaller employers. To this end, it recommends that:
the risk assessment procedure for low hazard workplaces, such as offices and shops, should be simplified. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) should create simpler interactive risk assessments for such workplaces and make these available on its website;
the HSE should create periodic checklists that enable businesses operating in low hazard environments to check and record their compliance with the law, as well as online video demonstrations of best practice in form completion;
employers should be exempt from having to carry out risk assessments for employees working from home in a low risk environment; and
self-employed people working in low hazard businesses should be exempt from having to carry out risk assessments.
The report also recommends that insurance companies actively reconsider the practice of routinely requiring businesses to employ health and safety consultants, as this creates an unnecessary burden and increases costs, without bringing any tangible business benefits.
In order to raise standards, the report recommends a new professional qualification requirement for all health and safety consultants, so that they are accredited by a professional body. Where businesses do choose to employ a consultant, it recommends that only qualified consultants, who will be included in a web-based directory, be used.
As regards health and safety legislation, the HSE should produce a separate Code of Practice for small- and medium-sized businesses engaged in lower risk activities, and the current raft of health and safety regulations should be consolidated into a single set of accessible regulations. The report also recommends amending the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR) by extending to seven days the period before an injury or accident needs to be reported. In addition, the HSE should carry out a review of the operation of the RIDDOR in order to determine whether this is the best way of providing accurate statistics on workplace accidents.
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