The government this week published a review into health and safety legislation which has found that existing health and safety requirements are “broadly right”.
The review, led by Professor Ragnar Lofstedt entitled “Reclaiming health and safety for all: an independent review of health and safety legislation” contains a number of proposals and recommendations which include:
- That the self-employed “whose work activities pose no potential risk of harm to others” be exempt from health and safety law
- That the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) should review all its Approved Codes of Practice by June 2012 so businesses have certainty about what is planned and when changes can be anticipated
- That HSE undertakes a programme of sector-specific consolidations to be completed by April 2015
- That legislation is changed to give HSE the authority to direct all local authority health and safety inspection and enforcement activity, in order to ensure that it is consistent and targeted towards the most risky workplaces
- That the original intention of the pre-action protocol standard disclosure list is clarified and restated and that regulatory provisions that impose strict liability should be reviewed by June 2013 and either qualified with ‘reasonably practicable’ where strict liability is not absolutely necessary or amended to prevent civil liability from attaching to a breach of those provisions.
The Department for Work and Pensions has said that it will now develop an implementation plan with HSE and other government departments and agree milestones for action.
The TUC has welcomed the overall conclusion of the report but has voiced concern that the proposals to exempt some self-employed workers could have a devastating impact on their safety.
It also expressed its disappointment that the report makes no suggestions about how to improve the protection of employees in the workplace.
Commenting on the report, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “Following last year's review by Lord Young, we've now seen yet another government review into workplace safety that has concluded that the current system is generally fine.
“Unfortunately, like Lord Young, Professor Lofstedt was only asked to look at the 'burden' on business, not the burden that the failings in the current system have placed on the two million people whose health has been made worse because of their work.
“Nor has it considered the more than 20,000 people whose lives are cut short every year as a result of a preventable work-related injury or illness. Because of this, not one life will be saved as a result and not one injury or illness prevented. This is very much a missed opportunity”.
To read the review, go to the Department for Work and Pensions website