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Reduced Health & Safety Inspections Policy To Be Reinforced By Government

Construction worker wearing a harness
17th December 2013

In March 2011, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) launched their ‘Good health and safety, Good for everyone’ policy framework. It’s a title we may be forgiven for thinking as being somewhat ironic or misleading even, when we discover that the actual intention of the policy is to reduce ‘low-risk’ businesses from proactive health and safety inspections by one third.

The ‘cutting of red tape policy’ was seen at the time by many as a potential recipe for an explosion in needless accidents and rising injury claims. Unscrupulous employers would simply see an opportunity for abrogating responsibility to maintain a duty of care by ‘cutting corners’ in the interests of saving time and money.

However, the Government seems intent on reinforcing the essential policy principles and has announced it will introduce a statutory code, expected in April 2013.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE), who are working with local authorities as co-regulators of the policy, have identified three industry sectors, including those considered ‘low risk’, and therefore, to be made more ‘straightforward’ for them to conduct their business under a health and safety compliant environment, which is ‘proportionate to risk’.

These industry sectors include those:

  • Which present comparatively high risk and where proactive inspection remains necessary as part of the overall regulatory approach.
  • Where there remains comparatively high risk but proactive inspection is not considered a useful component of future interventions.
  • Where proactive inspection is not justified in terms of outcomes.

The HSE do stress that they aim to, ”Maintain a strong deterrent against those who fail to meet their health and safety obligations and put their employees at material risk, thereby, also deriving an unfair competitive advantage.”

According to official figures, a staggering 1.3 million workers suffered an injury caused by their work in the previous 12 months, corresponding with rising accident claims.

According to the HSE, business should remember that, “low-risk does not mean no risk, nor will it mean a complete end to inspections.” Consequently, inspection and investigation may be undertaken, “following any reportable accident or following a complaint from an employee or member of the public.”