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Cuts to health & safety red tape a ‘sensible’ starting point

As the Government announced its blitz on health and safety red tape designed to boost business growth, the general response from industry was positive, peppered with calls for further relief from regulations which place an unnecessary burden on businesses.

With over 3,000 regulations to be scrapped or overhauled, the new red tape cuts are designed to exempt hundreds of thousands of businesses from unnecessary health and safety inspections and to protect business from ‘compensation culture’ claims.

From April 2013, the Government intends to introduce binding new rules on both the Health & Safety Executive and on local authorities, that will exempt hundreds of thousands of businesses from ‘burdensome’, regular health & safety inspections.

In future, the Government says, businesses will only face health and safety inspections if they are operating in higher risk areas such as construction, or if they have an incident or a track record of poor performance.

In addition, the Government will introduce legislation next month to ensure that businesses will only be held liable for civil damages in health and safety cases if they can be shown to have acted negligently. This will end the current situation where businesses can automatically be liable for damages even if they were not actually negligent.

Business secretary Vince Cable said:

“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 & safety, which will reduce costs and fear of burdensome inspections.”

Business minister, Michael Fallon, said:

‘”We’re bringing common sense back to health and safety.”

Alexander Ehmann, head of regulatory policy at the Institute of Directors, said:

“The Government’s efforts on deregulation are welcome. 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.”

On the inspection changes, Alexander Ehmann, head of regulatory policy at the Institute of Directors, said:

“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.”

Dr Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“Efforts to reduce the burden of health and safety regulation will be welcome news to many businesses. Ensuring that low-risk workplaces are exempted from inspections is a sensible change that will save employers time and money without reducing the safety of workers.

“While the Red Tape Challenge has delivered some welcome changes, the overall number of regulations on the books remains far too high. The extent to which businesses actually benefit will depend on whether the regulations affected are the most burdensome ones or just arcane rules that are no longer applied. We will measure the government’s success by the reduction in businesses costs, which means that employers will expect come genuinely burdensome regulations to be scrapped.”

The CBI also commented on Government plans to exempt low-risk businesses from health and safety inspections. Katja Hall, CBI Chief Policy Director, said:

“Given that half of firms say health and safety checks are a burden, and they are disproportionately costly for smaller firms, freeing low-risk businesses from tick-box inspections makes obvious sense.

“Crucially, this will also focus inspectors’ time on the cases that really matter.”

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