Next Cuts: Health and Safety Inspections

After announcing a lowering of the thresholds in accounting and auditing procedures for small businesses, the Government has now turned its focus on cutting unnecessary health and safety inspections.

From April 2013 new rules on health and safety inspections will exempt low-risk workplaces such as shops, pubs and clubs in the latest drive by the Government to streamline business regulations.

The regular health and safety inspections have previously been branded as "burdensome" and so the latest move is just one of the coalition’s overtures to overhaul or scrap some 3,000 regulations.

Part of the Red Tape Challenge, the new regulatory relaxation follows earlier changes to employment tribunals where plans to introduce fees will become reality in mid 2013. Charging fees for employment tribunals is expected to lessen the burden on the taxpayer and act to make tribunals an option of "last resort".

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, spoke about the reforms, saying:

“In these tough times, businesses need to focus all their energies on creating jobs and growth, not 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.”

Michael Fallon, the new Business Minister who took over from Mark Prisk in last week’s cabinet reshuffle, said of the new regime:

“Today’s announcement injects fresh impetus into our drive to cut red tape. We have identified the red tape and now we are going to cut it.”

“We’re getting out of the way by bringing common sense back to health and safety. We will now be holding departments’ feet to the fire to ensure all unnecessary red tape is cut.”

Business leaders also expressed their views on the reduction of regulation with Alexander Ehmann, Head of Regulatory Policy at the Institute of Directors saying:

“The Government’s efforts on deregulation are welcome. Today’s announcements are good news if they are the beginning, not the end of the deregulation story. Excessive regulation costs time and money, both of which businesses would rather spend on developing new products, hiring staff and building up British business both here and abroad. The IoD encourage Michael Fallon to turn up the heat on the removal of red tape and help to get Britain’s economy moving.”

On the inspection changes, Alexander Ehmann added:

“Removing the headache of health and safety inspections for low-risk businesses is a step change. Scrapping unnecessary and unpredictable inspections is a valuable piece of deregulation and the Government are to be congratulated for taking such bold and decisive action on behalf of Britain’s businesses.”

Stephen Radley, Director of Policy at EEF had this to say:

“Burdensome health and safety rules are a drag on business. Cutting back on them is vital. We welcome the Government’s firm commitment to limit the liabilities of companies acting responsibly. It is now critical these reforms are delivered.”

Whilst Dr Adam Marshall, the Director of Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), finished by saying

“Reducing the burden of health and safety red tape will be welcome news to many businesses, and is a win for common sense. The BCC has long argued for a risk-based approach to health and safety, with a less onerous regime for companies with low-risk workplaces.”

These measures mean that law-abiding, low-risk businesses can live without the constant threat of time-consuming and costly inspections. It’s a sensible change whose time has come.”

However, Alex Botha, the Chief Executive of the British Safety Council, commented on the change that his organisation said "risks generating more heat than light";

“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.”

Firms concerned about safety should read the business advice articles on An Introduction to Health & Safety, Health & Saefty Risk Assessment and our Fire Safety Regulations Guide.

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