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HEALTH AND SAFETY IS NOT A BURDEN ON BUSINESS

Survey results reveal H&S does not cause a great burden to UK firms

In 2010, the Prime Minister tasked Lord Young with reviewing the health and safety landscape in the UK. The review was aimed at tackling red tape and the compensation culture. In October 2010, Lord Young delivered his recommendations.

The review was based on the premise that H&S red tape and the ‘compensation culture’ provided serious hurdles to UK business. Lawyers Norton Rose LLP sought to explore whether this was really true.

Survey methodology

An online questionnaire survey was conducted by Norton Rose LLP in conjunction with Safety & Health Practitioner Magazine. There were 557 respondents. Job titles included business risk manager, health and safety manager, site EHS engineers and head of safety & compliance.

NR suggest that “the quality of respondents ensured that the survey provided a wide-ranging and authoritative picture of how current legislation is viewed by the professionals that it most closely affects”.

Conclusions

The Norton Rose LLP report on the survey concludes: 

“The common perception is that health and safety legislation is one of the greatest burdens on business and that the UK is in the throes of a compensation culture.

Our survey findings suggest otherwise. Health and safety professionals are aware of the cost and time issues involved both with managing health and safety, but the “compensation culture” does not have the impact that many believe.

Instead, the survey has highlighted the continuing importance of health and safety to the business and the public sector community. On the one hand employers have a moral as well as legal obligation to ensure they provide a safe working environment, while on the other there are an increasing number of factors that affect their ability to do so. The current economic climate exacerbates this.

This is why the flexibility inherent in the UK health & safety legislation is so important and supported by practitioners. Managing health and safety effectively takes up management time, while the lack of a proper audit trail can increase claims costs and make it more likely that organisations have to settle claims that they might have been able otherwise to defend.

In addition, the potential for adverse publicity ranks almost as highly as the operational needs of the business when it comes to managing health and safety. High-profile accidents and the recent introduction of the Corporate Manslaughter Act have led to firms viewing reputational risk as just as much of a concern as financial risk. Even organisations in less overtly high-risk sectors are increasingly concerned about the bad publicity and adverse commercial consequences that can arise from employee litigation.

With public sector cutbacks and pressure on internal budgets, health and safety professionals face an increasing challenge to manage health and safety risks in the current climate. Red tape may occasionally interfere with their work, but thankfully it does not appear to be strangling them.”

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