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Health and safety rules to see reform

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Health and safety regulation will in future focus on high hazard sites and tackling rogue employers and consultants, not tying up the vast majority of Britain’s businesses in unnecessary red tape and regulations, a series of changes to the regulatory system has made clear.

Employment Minister, Chris Grayling described the reforms as designed to support the Government’s growth agenda and to ease the regulatory burdens on business.

The changes mean that responsible employers will no longer face automatic health and safety inspections. Instead health and safety inspectors are being instructed to concentrate their efforts on high risk locations, like major energy facilities, and on rogue employers who are putting the safety of their staff and the public at risk. This measure will cut the number of inspections carried out in the UK by at least a third.

The Government is also taking steps to eliminate ‘cowboy’ health and safety consultants who are unqualified but are responsible for many of Britain’s most inappropriate health and safety recommendations. A new register of qualified consultants will be made available to businesses, and those who are untrained or give false advice will be excluded from the approved list.

The Government, too, is launching a review of all existing health and safety law with a view to scrapping measures that are not needed and put an unnecessary burden on business.

Meanwhile, a new online package, Health and Safety Made Simple, will provide small and low risk employers with a one-stop place in which to find all the help they need to achieve a basic and bureaucracy-free level of health and safety management in their workplaces.

Chris Grayling commented: “Of course it is right to protect employees in the workplace, but Britain’s health and safety culture is also stifling business and holding back economic growth. 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.

“This will help us make Britain a more growth focused, entrepreneurial nation.  By reducing unnecessary red tape we can encourage businesses to come and invest in the UK, creating jobs and opportunities when we need them most.”

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Chair Judith Hackitt, chair of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), added: “HSE remains focused on preventing death, serious injury and ill health to those at work and those affected by work activities. With even better targeting of our activities we will further help small businesses to understand what they need to do. This will enable us to give the highest level of attention to those areas with the potential to cause most harm and where we can have the greatest impact.”

Business groups welcomed the announcement.

Neil Carberry, the CBI’s director for employment affairs, said: “These proposals should inject some common sense into health and safety regulation, by targeting higher risk sectors and improving the advice given by consultants.

However Mr Carberry warned of the CBI’s concerns over proposals to increase employer charging: “The CBI will work constructively with the HSE to ensure any increases in charges fall only where material dangers that a firm should have dealt with are found. Businesses should not be faced with fees for minor technical breaches.”

Alexander Ehmann, head of regulation at the Institute of Directors, said: “The Government has grasped the nettle today on health and safety. The commitment to a full review of existing health and safety law has the potential to be a ‘game-changer’ and the IoD will be making early suggestions on ways to ease the burden on business.”