No delay for health and safety shake-up | 09 November 10
Companies and organisations are being urged to look again at their health and safety policies as the Government wastes no time in shaking up current legislation.
Health and safety experts at law firm Ward Hadaway say the Coalition is acting swiftly on a report published last month which called for major changes in the way the health and safety system operates in the UK.
The report, written by former Cabinet Minister Lord Young, was commissioned to check what the Government called “the growth of compensation culture” and to introduce a “common-sense approach” to health and safety matters.
Recommendations included simplifying the health and safety risk assessments for low hazard workplaces such as offices, classrooms and shops; consolidating current health and safety rules into a single set of “accessible” regulations and introducing separate guidance for small and medium-sized businesses engaged in lower risk activities.
It also called for the merging of food safety and health and safety inspection teams in local authorities and to make officials who ban events on health and safety grounds put their reasons in writing.
Although the report was only published in the middle of October, three Bills have already been put forward to change health and safety legislation.
One proposes to reduce the duties on employers to report matters under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995; one proposes to exempt employers having to produce a written risk assessment in low hazard workplaces and those working from their own home with low hazard equipment and the third calls for health and safety consultants to have mandatory qualifications.
James Thompson, partner in the health and safety team at Ward Hadaway, said the swift publication of such Bills showed the Government’s determination to press ahead with health and safety reforms.
James said: “The fact that three Bills have already been put forward shows that the Coalition is not letting the grass grow under its feet and intends to follow up its words with actions.
“These proposed changes are likely to be welcomed by many employers who have been finding it difficult and confusing to cope with what appears to be a myriad of rules around the issue of health and safety.
“However, if and when these Bills become law, this will mean that organisations will have to think again about their current health and safety policies and look at changing them to bring them in line with the new regime.
“It will still be important to strike a sensible balance between ensuring workplaces are safe and allowing employees to get on with their jobs without too much interference so prudent companies and organisations should start thinking now about how to manage this transition.”
Earlier this year, Ward Hadaway extended the legal protection packages it offers to companies to include health and safety issues.
The move came in response to rising concerns from clients about health and safety issues impinging on their ability to carry out their business.
The resulting package - Employment and Health & Safety Protection – has been developed in partnership with insurers Arag, rated the best legal expenses insurer in the UK by industry magazine Insurance 360.
It is also backed up by Ward Hadaway’s own substantial team of specialist employment, health and safety and data protection lawyers.
Ward Hadaway says the package removes the risk of costly employment claims from hiring to firing, reduces the risk and costs of Health and Safety Executive or local authority prosecutions and cuts down on the risk of falling foul of data protection laws.
For more details on the package, please click here.
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