Yesterday’s announcements by the Government that low risk businesses such as shops, offices, pubs and clubs will be exempt from regular “burdensome health and safety inspections” from April 2013 risks generating more heat than light.
The British Safety Council has cautioned that there is a real danger when health and safety is constantly being characterised as a burden on business and an obstacle to economic growth and job creation. There is clear evidence of the financial and social benefits well managed proportionate health and safety brings to both employers and employees.
Alex Botha, the Chief Executive of the British Safety Council, said:
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authorities are charged with making adequate arrangements for the enforcement of health and safety law in relation to specified work activities. No-one should interfere with that.
HSE’s strategy Good Health and Safety, Good for Everyone, clearly sets out the principles of enforcement, that is, proportional, targeted and consistent regulation. – this means that HSE’s resources are currently focussed on higher-risk work activities, while ensuring that any beaches of the law or health and safety failures are investigated, and where appropriate enforcement action taken. The myth that there is an army of health and safety inspectors disrupting and stifling UK business day in day out is just that – a myth. It is estimated that every workplace in Great Britain can, presently, expect a visit from an inspector on average once every 38 years.
Let’s not overlook the progress that has been made over the last eighteen months in ensuring that our regulatory framework for health and safety at work is proportionate, sensible and comprehensible.
The British Safety Council and its corporate members have played their part in helping take reforms aimed at simplifying our health and safety rules forward. We have contributed to both Lord Young and Professor Löfstedt reviews of health and safety. Considerable progress has been made in taking forward those reforms with the aim of ensuring sensible, proportionate and comprehensible health and safety regulation. It is important not to lose sight that these reviews did not find any evidence to suggest that there was a case for radically altering or stripping back our health and safety framework.