Policy

Improving the health and safety system

Issue

We believe that good health and safety is important, but the burden of excessive health and safety rules and regulations on business has become too great and a damaging compensation culture is stifling innovation and growth. We want to protect people in the workplace while reducing the burden of unnecessary health and safety rules and regulations on businesses.

Reviews by Lord Young and Professor Löfstedt found that too often businesses felt they must go beyond what health and safety law required. The issues identified are:

  • there are too many inspections of relatively low risk and well performing workplaces
  • an overly complex structure for regulation
  • businesses too often receive poor health and safety advice from badly qualified consultants
  • a ‘compensation culture’ leads businesses to a fear of being sued for accidents, even where they are not at fault

Actions

Concentrating health and safety enforcement on higher risk areas

Our aim is to take a lighter touch approach to health and safety at work, concentrating efforts on higher risk industries and serious breaches of the rules. This leaves those organisations which pose a lesser risk, and which do the right thing for their employees, free of unwarranted scrutiny. This will mean a substantial drop in the number of health and safety inspections carried out in Britain:

  • a National Local Authority Enforcement Code sets out the risk based approach to targeting health and safety interventions that local authority regulators should follow
  • the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has reduced the number of proactive inspections it does each year by a third, from around 33,000 to 22,000
  • the Better Regulations Delivery Office has strengthened the primary authority scheme so it is accessible to more small businesses, covers more regulations and has strengthened inspection plans

Simplifying health and safety law and guidance

A number of changes have been made to ease the burden on business:

  • HSE have published Health and Safety Made Simple to help small and medium-sized businesses achieve a basic level of health and safety management in their workplace
  • we have removed 20 unnecessary or redundant regulations (as of November 2013)
  • HSE have clarified and simplified the accident and ill health reporting requirements for businesses, supported by new straightforward, web-based guidance
  • HSE have removed the restriction on using only HSE-approved first aid training courses, and issued new straightforward guidance

Setting up the Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register

We are making it easier for businesses to find competent and ethical consultants. We have introduced an official register of Occupational Safety and Health Consultants for health and safety practitioners who are properly accredited to one of the professional bodies in the industry. This will help bring an end to rogue health and safety advisers who increase the burden on business and cost industry money by giving advice which bears little relation to the legal requirements.

Removing the fear of being sued

Our aim is to remove the fear of being sued that leads employers to go beyond what the law requires. This undermines their confidence to grow and develop their businesses and means they incur unnecessary costs.

We introduced new rules so that civil claims for compensation for people injured at work can only be brought in cases where the employer has been negligent (previously an employer could be liable even where they had taken all sensible steps to prevent injury).

HSE has published new work experience guidance that makes clear that taking on work experience students should not involve lots of paperwork.

HSE’s Myth Busters Challenge Panel has challenged over 200 cases where health and safety has been misrepresented.

The Ministry of Justice has implemented the primary recommendations of Lord Jackson’s review of Civil Litigation Costs (including a fundamental reform of no win, no fee conditional fee agreements, and a ban on the payment and receipt of referral fees in personal injury cases).

Publishing health and safety progress reports

We regularly publish improving health and safety progress reports which provide updates on how the government is implementing Lord Young’s and Professor Löfstedt’s recommendations.

Background

Review of health and safety laws by Lord Young (‘Common Sense Common Safety’)

Lord Young undertook a review across government of health and safety laws and the growth of the compensation culture. His report ‘Common sense, common safety’ was published in October 2010.

Plans for further health and safety reform (‘Good Health and Safety, Good for Everyone’)

On 21 March 2011 we published plans for further reform in ‘Good health and safety, good for everyone’.

Professor Löfstedt’s review of health and safety law (‘Reclaiming health and safety for all’)

Professor Ragnar Löfstedt, leading risk management specialist, carried out a review of health and safety law. Comments received from the government’s Red Tape Challenge health and safety theme were provided to him. On 28 November 2011, his review ‘Reclaiming health and safety for all’ and the government response to the review were published.

Who we’ve consulted with

Professor Löfstedt and the advisory panel asked a wide range of interested parties to provide evidence and examples to help inform the review of health and safety law. The call for evidence closed on 29 July 2011. All evidence submitted was considered by Professor Löfstedt’s review.

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