By Marcus Leach

When it comes to health and safety legislation, many companies simply don't know what they are meant to comply with and this is leaving them open to prosecution and their employees open to unnecessary dangers.

That's one of the key findings of a nationwide survey by health and safety advisor specialist Bibby Consulting & Support.

The survey, the full results of which will be published within the next few weeks, elicited responses from 383 organisations of various sizes and industry sectors, with around 70 per cent of those taking part owners or directors of small to medium sized businesses.

Nearly half of the respondents (48.1 per cent) admitted that while they were aware of the principles of health and safety, they did not know any specific regulations. This would suggest that their level of understanding is very limited indeed.

When asked which regulations they were aware of, comments ranged from "too numerous to mention" and "where would I start?" to "cannot name any" and even "dunno". Other comments included "I know the basics" and "they do not apply to me". One respondent said the approach to health and safety in their business was "very relaxed".

When asked a question about a specific piece of legislation — RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries Disease and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations) — a significant proportion (45 per cent) skipped the question, and of those that answered 60 per cent said they didn't know the answer. This suggests that most respondents knew very little about these regulations which is worrying considering the relevance across nearly every business type.

One respondent to the survey railed against health and safety regulations in general, saying: "I think that they are massively overcomplex and ridiculously nit-picking. The people that write them clearly never have the issues of running a business. They seem to think all you have to do is comply with their little section. But there are all the other areas of legislation we have to comply with. Much more common sense should apply."

"One respondent summed it up perfectly when he said 'There are many pitfalls for the willing but unknowing'. Most people appreciate the need for health and safety regulations and are more than willing to comply with them. But if they lack knowledge in certain areas, they are leaving themselves and their colleagues open to all sorts of dangers and penalties."

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