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Health and safety rules stifling businesses

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The government’s review of the UK’s health and safety laws needs to concentrate on removing administrative barriers to enterprise and business growth, according to the Forum of Private Business.

The  FPB argued that employers want a ‘common sense’ approach to health and safety.

However, research carried out by the business group found that almost 20 per cent of the firms that responded were sceptical that the review will be effective in freeing employers from the constraints of too much red tape and bureaucracy.

Ahead of the comprehensive spending review, the FPB said that reducing regulatory waste could help the government cut the budget deficit and remove some of the annual £12 billion per year that costs small businesses to comply with the law.

In all, 59 per cent of respondents to the FPB’s survey expressed confidence that such the review will be beneficial, but 18 per cent voiced doubts as to the impact it will have on red tape.

Tom Parry, the FPB’s research manager commented: “We welcome any commitment to remove the barriers created by excessive health and safety laws, many of which appear to have little practical purpose and seem to be directed at large companies but tie up small firms in the process.

“But many of details of where the government will focus its efforts have yet to be fully outlined. Having seen similar initiatives in the past, some small businesses we represent are understandably sceptical.”

Mr Parry identified the upcoming spending review as a genuine opportunity to reform the system.

He added: “Forget all the scare stories, our members have identified the real problems of health and safety they find most burdensome and we are suggesting positive ways of redressing the balance by removing red tape for the sake of efficiency and in order to free up entrepreneurship.”

Nevertheless, many of those firms that took part in the FPB survey acknowledged the benefits of having good health and safety policies and procedures in place.

In all, 86 per cent said policies reduced risks, 74 per cent believed they meant fewer accidents, 70 per cent saw them cutting the threat of legal action, 34 per cent cited an improved standing among competitors and suppliers, and 34 per cent considered they helped to create a better reputation for corporate responsibility.