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5th December 2011

Major Health and Safety Review: Cutting Red Tape

Posted by Lighthouse in

A major review of health and safety regulation by Professor Ragnar Löfstedt was published on Monday 28 November 2011 on the same day as the Government’s response.

The full report runs to over 129 pages, and so the most significant highlights have been summarised below which are likely to be of greatest interest to our clients:

Changes to Regulations: Löfstedt has suggested a small number of unnecessary regulations be scrapped, and changes made to several others, including such areas as clarifying how often PAT testing should be undertaken, and removing the need for HSE approval of first aid training organisations. Lighthouse will of course keep you fully up to date on any such legislation updates.

Exemption for the Self-employed: from health and safety law if their work activities pose no threat to others. This represents a major advance in cutting red tape, (although it is still unclear how those exempted will be able to identify themselves as such.)

The Health and Safety Executive to gain powers: to direct local authority health and safety inspection and enforcement, and to become the “Primary Authority” for multi-site national organisations. This will help ensure that inspections are targeted towards the riskiest activities and also that a fair and consistent approach to enforcement is maintained across the UK. However, it remains to be seen whether there will be a fundamental shift in power from local authorities to the HSE.

Reviewing the Approved Codes of Practice: which Löfstedt suggests are too complex and ambiguous. The first phase of this is to be completed by the HSE in June 2012.

Sensible civil procedure and liability rules: Professor Löfstedt found that taken as a whole the health and safety regulations were appropriate. However, two of his recommendations are being taken up by the Government as a priority. Firstly, the Review suggests that the standard disclosure lists found in the Pre-Action Protocols are being interpreted in an overly restrictive fashion by firms and advisors, encouraging a bureaucratic approach to health and safety documentation which is unwarranted. Löfstedt wants the original intention – to encourage the sharing of information – to be clarified and restated to ensure that firms are not encouraged to believe that the absence of documentation is in itself a ground for liability. Secondly, Löfstedt recommends that each regulation should be reviewed to ensure that any strict liability rules are there because they are required as a minimum by European law, and replacing them by the more proportionate “reasonable practicability” test when European law does not dictate no-fault liability.

On the whole businesses client will no doubt be pleased with the outcome. And there should be more good news to come in the New Year with the publication of the results of the Red Tape Challenge, in which the internet was used as a tool for the public to brainstorm ways to cut unnecessary regulation.

Copies of the Löfstedt Report and the Government’s response can be found on the Department for Work and Pensions website at:  http://www.dwp.gov.uk/policy/health-and-safety/

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