Government Health & Safety proposals – an at-a-glance guide

Government Health Safety proposals an at a glance guide

Less inspections, more guidance, and a crackdown on ‘cowboy’ consultants – how the government plans to reform health and safety ‘red tape’

The coalition government is set to announce a raft of measures which could revamp the health and safety culture in the UK.

Ministers are keen to save money by slashing the health and safety spending budget by 35 per cent by 2014-2015. But many feel this drive could compromise the safety of workers if employers are allowed to cut corners.

The government is keen to help businesses to slash administration costs in areas such as health and safety so that employers can set aside more money for recruitment.

No win no fee solicitors such as Claims Direct are experienced at helping people claim compensation after they have suffered an accident at work through no fault of their own. Will fewer inspections and less regulation lead to more workplace accidents?

Below are six of the key proposals that work and pensions minister Chris Grayling is set to unveil.

1.Reducing the number of health and safety inspections by a third. Mr Grayling proposes that only high-risk sites should have automatic inspections. This means that it would be business-as-usual for energy, nuclear sites and chemical industries. But an end to compulsory inspections in medium and low-risk industries would add up to 11,000 less inspections per year – a reduction of about a third. 

2.Guidance to replace inspections – David Cameron’s administration hope that improvements to access to health and safety guidance for small and low-risk businesses will  reduce the need for inspections.

3.Regardless of whether their business is high or low-risk, employers with a track record of being irresponsible will continue to be targeted for inspection.

4.Fines for employers – although the government favours less inspections, it does intend to force careless employers to pay for the cost of health and safety investigations if they are found to have breached safety laws. A fine would also be levied if neglect could be established.

5.A crackdown on ‘cowboy’ health and safety consultants – the government is determined to continue to promote a register designed to ‘weed out’ consultants who are not qualified to advise of health and safety issues. The register currently boasts a roll-call of 1,500 approved consultants.

6.A long-term review of all health and safety of laws – this will be conducted by a risk management specialist with a report due to be filed in the autumn. Some existing laws which are deemed to be a burden on businesses are expected to be axed.

Commenting on the proposals, Mr Grayling said: “The purpose of health and safety regulation is to protect people at work and rightly so. But we need common sense at the heart of the system, and these measures will help root out the needless burden of bureaucracy.” 

Opposition to the proposals

Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Britain’s second-largest union, Unite, pointed out that health and safety laws have been developed “over decades” with the purpose of protecting the UK’s 29 million workers.

He said:  "Cutting bureaucracy is the continuing mantra of this coalition, but it could be dangerous rhetoric if it translates into fewer inspections and a subsequent rise in deaths and injuries in factories, on construction sites, on farms and in workplaces across the UK.”