By Daniel Hunter

Local authorities are being banned from unnecessary health and safety inspections under a new code coming into effect today (Wednesday).

The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) statutory National Enforcement Code for local authorities will instead target proactive council inspections on higher risk activities in specified sectors or when there is intelligence of workplaces putting employees or the public at risk.

It will see tens of thousands of businesses removed from health and safety inspections which are not justified on a risk basis, including most shops and offices.

Checks will continue on poor performers and at sites where there are higher risk activities, such as cooling towers, where life-threatening legionella bacteria can develop, and buried liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) gas pipes which can create an explosion if corroded.

Minister for Employment Mark Hoban said: "We need health and safety that protects people where there are real risks but doesn’t stifle businesses.

"There are too many examples of local councils imposing unnecessary burdens by inspecting low risk businesses. This new code should put a stop to this by putting common sense back into the system."

HSE Chair Judith Hackitt said: "Real improvement in safety performance will come from targeting those who put their employees at greatest risk.

"Local inspectors have a very important role to play in ensuring the effective and proportionate management of risks by businesses, and the code is designed to guide them to do this.

"It sets out how targeting should be achieved, providing certainty for both businesses and regulators. HSE will be working with local authorities to ensure the code is successfully implemented."

The new code has been backed by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

Mary Boughton, the chairwoman of its health and safety committee, said: "The FSB supports the principles behind the new local authority enforcement code for health and safety at work. We believe that it is important to ensure that all local authority health and safety inspections are consistently risk based and proportionate to ensure that low-risk, compliant businesses are able to concentrate on growth."

If low risk businesses believe they are being unreasonably targeted they will be able to complain to an independent panel, which will investigate and issue a public judgement.

HSE will work with those local authorities whose targeting of inspections fails to meet the standards set out.

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