By Claire West
A Government review published today could mark a "turning point" for health and safety in the UK, the profession’s largest international body said today.
IOSH (Institution of Occupational Safety and Health) said it broadly welcomed Lord Young’s recommendations, which include a clampdown on "absurd" applications of health and safety legislation and measures to make it easier for teachers to organise school trips.
IOSH Chief Executive Rob Strange said: "We warmly welcome this review. We are sick and tired of hearing of misinterpretations of health and safety laws which end in the cancellation of perfectly safe activities.
"Lord Young is absolutely right: The standing of health and safety has been lowered by ridiculous applications of the rules. This has to end.
"We think this review could see a turning point for health and safety in the UK by turning the focus away from daft decisions about conker competitions and hanging baskets and back onto saving people’s lives in genuinely hazardous areas of work and public life."
In the report published today, Lord Young said the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act remains an "effective framework" and had brought about the lowest number of non-fatal accidents and second lowest number of fatal accidents at work in Europe. But health and safety had been given a bad name, said the former Government minister, by misinterpretations of the rules.
Lord Young is recommending controls on no win-no fee lawyers, the simplification of risk assessments for some businesses and the accreditation of health and safety consultants.
He is also advising the Government to cut red tape for school trips, apply extra scrutiny of councils which ban events on health and safety grounds and to ensure the emergency services are not at risk of litigation for acts of heroism.
Mr Strange said: "It’s a little early to comment on the specific recommendations made by Lord Young, which have been made public only this morning. But we do think the Government is broadly on the right track and we will support it in whatever way we can.
Commenting on today's report, Alexander Ehmann, Head of Regulatory Affairs at the Institute of Directors, said:
“Lord Young's sensible recommendations are long overdue. Low risk businesses have been over-regulated on health and safety for too long. Today's proposals go a long way to lightening the load on offices and businesses across the country.
“The IoD is encouraged by Lord Young's approach and calls on the Government to look at deregulation in that other critical area of over-regulation — general employment law.”
John Cridland, CBI Deputy Director-General, said:
“Lord Young is right. We need a can-do, not a can-sue culture.
“This report rightly criticises the tick-box approach to health and safety for drowning people in red-tape.
“We have a good health and safety record in Britain, and Lord Young recognises the importance of maintaining our high level of worker protection.
“But all too often fear of litigation has spawned an approach to health and safety that has focused on form-filling rather than dealing with real risks.
“Lord Young’s report should put common sense back into the system, reduce bureaucracy, and improve our approach to managing risk.”