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GOVERNMENT TO CHARGE FOR H&S ENFORCEMENT WORK

Inspections to be cut by 33% and targeted at higher risk work sectors

The Government has published a report Good Health and Safety, Good for Everyone: The next steps in the Government’s plans for reform of the health and safety system in Britain.

The report, announced by Employment Minister Chris Grayling today, outlines a package of changes to Britain’s health and safety system designed to “support growth and ease the regulatory burdens on business”.

There are five important changes being introduced:

  1. Charges for enforcement: organisations gaining competitive advantage by flouting the H&S rules will be charged for the cost of putting things right. HSE will be able to recover all the costs of inspection and investigation work at which a “serious, material breach in standards is diagnosed and a requirement to rectify is formally made, together with the cost of any follow-up work”;
  2. Reduced but targeted inspections: focus away from businesses that “do the right thing” towards higher risk areas and dealing with serious breaches of H&S regulation. This will mean a very substantial drop in the number of health and safety inspections carried out in the UK;
  3. Simplification of the law: new guidance to provide lower risk small and medium-sized businesses with the information on basic level of health and safety management in their workplace;
  4. Consultants register: the register of Occupational Safety and Health Consultants for those health and safety practitioners who are properly accredited to one of the professional bodies in the industry. This is intended to make it easier to access reliable, reputable advice;
  5. Further review: an immediate review of H&S regulation, chaired by risk management specialist Professor Ragnar Löfstedt, and backed by an independent advisory panel. The review will be asked to make recommendations for simplifying the current rules by autumn 2011.

The Government intends that in the whole focus of the health and safety regime will shift to a “lighter touch approach”. Organisations which pose a lesser risk and “do the right thing for their employees” will be free of “unwarranted scrutiny”.

Construction sector proactive inspection retained

The Government has identified three categorizations of non-major hazard industries as regards the approach to HSE proactive inspection. Based on current analysis the Government has established the following groupings:

  1. Higher risk areas: where proactive intervention is to be retained. The major areas for inclusion are construction, waste and recycling, and high risk manufacturing e.g. molten and base metal manufacture;
  2. Concern areas: but where proactive inspection is unlikely to be effective and is not proposed e.g. agriculture, quarries, and health and social care; and
  3. Lower risk areas: where proactive inspection will no longer take place. These include low risk manufacturing (e.g. textiles, clothing, footwear, light engineering, electrical engineering), the transport sector (e.g. air, road haulage and docks), local authority administered education provision, electricity generation and the postal and courier services.

DWP Minister Chris Grayling said:

“The purpose of health and safety regulation is to protect people at work and rightly so. But we need common sense at the heart of the system, and these measures will help root out the needless burden of bureaucracy. By reducing unnecessary red tape we can encourage businesses to come and invest in the UK, creating jobs and opportunities when we need them most.”

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Chair Judith Hackitt said:

“With even better targeting of our activities we will further help small businesses to understand what they need to do. This will enable us to give the highest level of attention to those areas with the potential to cause most harm and where we can have the greatest impact.”

A UCATT spokesperson, said:

“The Government are using myths and distortions to introduce what amounts to an attack on worker safety. These plans will allow employers to ignore safety rules, as they will know that they will not be prosecuted. Workers should not be forced to play Russian roulette with their safety.”

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