By Maximilian Clarke

Half of the UK’s health and safety laws are to be scrapped over the next 3 years following the recommendations of an independent review, Employment Minister Chris Grayling announced this morning.

The announcement follows today’s publication of the Löfstedt Review into health and safety legislation, commissioned by the Employment Minister in March. It recommends health and safety law should not apply to self-employed people whose work activity poses no potential risk of harm to others. If implemented, the changes would benefit around a million self-employed people.

Businesses owners and lobbies have welcomed then news, after repeatedly bemoaning the extent of burdensome legislation that they argue stifles growth and wastes time. This claim is refuted by unions, who have publically attacked proponents of deregulation as pursuers of a ‘fanatical right wing agenda’.

Health and safety regulations will also be reduced through combining, simplifying and reducing the approximately 200 existing regulations. The report also makes recommendations to ensure that employers are not held responsible for damages when they have done all they can to manage risks.

“We have waited a while for the results of the Löfstedt review, and now they are here we’re not disappointed,” commented The Forum’s Senior Policy Adviser, Alex Jackman.

“There are recommendations that will see a tangible difference to the shop floor, but also a wider acknowledgement for the needs of health and safety to be a shared burden with staff as well as employers.

“The Forum of Private Business has long been calling for such a shared responsibility and welcomes this first step in a national debate.

“Civil action against businesses is a huge issue for our members, and many over-compensate where health and safety is concerned. Not only does this unduly raise the cost of compliance — disproportionately so for the smallest businesses — but it also raises the expectations of employees should personal injury unfortunately befall them.

“We welcome moves to redress the imbalance we currently have where employers can be successfully prosecuted despite having taken all reasonable steps to protect their employees.

“Finally, at a European level, the report identifies the need to engage early with Europe on health and safety issues. Whilst this is hardly an earth-shattering new conclusion, the planned 2013 EU review of health and safety makes it essential”.

Earlier this year Forum research found small firms increasingly spending extra time and money on complying with employment legislation. The study carried out with members suggests the cost of compliance is a staggering £16.8 billion — or £14,200 per firm on average.

“Complying with health and safety regulations has become a serious burden for business and a major barrier to growth,” continued Mr Jackman.

“That this Government is finally taking action to streamline and improve the system is brilliant news for SMEs who have for too long been drowning under a sea of needless rules and regulations that were ineffectual and over bureaucratic.

“Common sense should be at the heart of all health and safety legislation and today appears to herald the beginning of the end for pointless red tape. This should save employers money and make for a fairer, fit-for-purpose system with an emphasis on personal responsibility.

“Moving forward, we wish to see these proposals implemented as soon as possible, taking into account the current progression of impacting work in other areas of Government, notable changes to the Local Better Regulation Office and reforms of ‘no win no fee’ agreements.

“Many businesses have positive views of the benefits of health and safety, but the proposals today will — once implemented — go some way towards reducing the wider perception that small businesses have on health and safety and make it harder to litigate when employers are not at fault.”

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