Health & safety: new national code expected April next year

Related tags Occupational safety and health

Health & safety: new national code expected April next year
The sphere of health and safety in this country is perceived by some to be unnecessarily complicated. There are myriad regulations and codes of practice, making it very difficult for small businesses, in particular, to have sufficient resources to get to grips with what is required, never mind achieving successful implementation.

Reform has been coming for some time — in the desire to make it simpler for businesses to comply with legislative duties and at the same time targeting enforcement resources at high-risk enterprises.

In June 2010 the Prime Minister appointed Lord Young of Graffham as advisor on health and safety law and practice.

He undertook a wide-ranging review of both health and safety and the growth of the compensation culture. He reported in October 2010 in his report entitled Common Sense, Common Safety.

The Government accepted Lord Young’s recommendations for review and following his resignation in November 2010 Chris Grayling MP, the minister for employment, took over responsibility for implementation of the reforms.

He announced further reforms on 21 March 2011, taking forward some of the recommendations of Lord Young.

These involved the setting up of the occupational safety and health consultants’ register, providing employers with access to good-quality health and safety consultants. It also refocused the inspection activity regarding health and safety away from low-risk businesses.

In November 2011 the Department for Work & Pensions published a report by Professor Ragnar Löfstedt entitled Reclaiming Health & Safety for All: An Independent Review of Health & Safety Legislation, which provided an independent review and recommended a fundamental overhaul of the health and safety regime.

The recommendations of the report were accepted by the Government and the intention is that, by 2014, 50% of health and safety legislation will have been reviewed, revoked or improved.

Grayling has undertaken to provide regular progress reports on the implementation of Löfstedt’s recommendations and the first of these was published in June of this year.

A few of the recommendations have already been completed — for example, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) completed an independent evaluation of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. The industry will, however, be consulted before any changes are made.

Most of the other recommendations are on-going, with end dates of between 2013 and 2014. They include:

  • A review and re-evaluation of other regulations and codes of practice.
  • Liaison with the European Union on the premise that many aspects of health and safety law in this country go beyond what is required.
  • Revocation of unnecessary and burdensome regulations.
  • Simplification of the HSE website.

Licensed premises would normally be categorised as low risk, except in circumstances where they become higher risk, by virtue of construction work, for example.

The simplification of health and safety legislation is therefore relevant, with perhaps the most important aspect being the refocusing of enforcement towards high-risk premises.

This should mean less in the way of random health and safety inspections for licensed premises unless they have a particularly poor track record in this area.

I have dealt with several cases involving very high fines for licensed operators where the fundamental problem was largely one of paperwork rather than anything else.

Prosecutions should happen a little more quickly as well.

The new national code on health and safety is expected in or around April next year.

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