By Daniel Hunter

The government’s recent announcement of a red tape blitz to boost business growth is not likely to be the dramatic slashing of health and safety law that employers may think, says Croner, part of global information services group Wolters Kluwer.

Much has been made of plans to curtail inspections in low risk industries. The Health and Safety Executive’s workload has already been cut back because of reductions in public sector funding. So the proposed new legislation will simply formalise the HSE’s reduced inspection regime and extend that to low risk workplaces.

“There is definitely a feeling of the emperor’s new clothes here. While government-commissioned reports have established that UK health and safety law is ‘broadly fit for purpose’, we repeatedly hear from Ministers that they are removing barriers to business growth by slashing red tape covering health and safety," Stephen Thomas, Safety Technical Consultant at Croner, said.

"In fact what they’re really doing is cutting out largely redundant or irrelevant laws. However these changes do not in any way lessen the employer’s duty of care to their employees.

“The red tape being ‘blitzed’ in this case is not core health and safety law affecting the employer’s duty of care. The main legal change is intended to lessen fear of civil litigation by the removal of automatic liability in cases where an employer has committed a breach of health and safety regulations.

“By clinging to this outdated notion of legal red tape as the arch enemy of business, repeatedly proven to be false by its own advisers, the government and many of the organisations with an interest in growing UK business are ignoring the real facts: that UK health and safety law is sensible, proportionate and allows employers to implement safety standards in their own way.

"It’s true that implementing health and safety sensibly does take time and money, but the business benefits far outweigh the expenditure because organisations have an essential duty of care to employees and others.”

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