Manufacturers unlikely to benefit from health & safety red tape review

Posted on 10 Sep 2012 by Tim Brown

Ministers have announced plans to exempt thousands of businesses from health and safety inspections but manufacturing firms are unlikely to benefit.

According to the BBC, more than 3,000 regulations will be scrapped or overhauled but the changes, which will reduce inspections, will mainly apply to smaller businesses with low safety risks such as shops and offices.

The new rules, which will govern both the Health and Safety Executive and local authorities, are intended to be introduced next April.

Government aims to introduce a new binding statutory Code, which will be consulted on later this month but firms in higher-risk sectors, such as manufacturing, or those with a track record of poor performance will still face health and safety inspections. Business will be judged on a case by case basis as to whether or not they can be considered low risk.

Business minister Michael Fallon told Sky News the new measures would free businesses from unnecessary red tape and help them focus on creating jobs and growth.

He said: “We are all impatient for growth now and we have to do everything we can to lift this economy out of recession it’s been in and back business to create more jobs.”

Katja Hall, CBI Chief Policy Director, said that businesses will be encouraged by this announcement. “Given that half of firms say health and safety checks are a burden, and they are disproportionately costly for smaller firms, freeing low-risk businesses from tick-box inspections makes obvious sense. Crucially, this will also focus inspectors’ time on the cases that really matter.”

Business Secretary Vince Cable told the BBC that businesses need to focus on creating jobs and growth rather than “being tied up in unnecessary red tape”.

“I’ve listened to those concerns and we’re determined to put common sense back into areas like health and safety, which will reduce costs and fear of burdensome inspections,” he said.

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, says: “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.”

The Government also said it will introduce legislation next month to ensure that businesses will only be held liable for civil damages in health and safety cases if they can be shown to have acted negligently.

According to Helen Brooks, Partner specialising in Health and Safety at Charles Russell’s Employment and Pensions  Group, this means that “employers who have complied with their health and safety duties will no longer be automatically liable for damages, as is currently the case.”

Image courtesy of Compliance and Safety.