Shortly after the General Election, the Prime Minister tasked Lord Young with carrying out a review of the operation of our health and safety regime and the perceived growth of a compensation culture. The Report of Lord Young of Graffham was issued on Friday. Lord Young introduces his report by acknowledging the effectiveness of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 in reducing the number of fatal accidents in hazardous occupations, but also points to the fact that the standing of health and safety in the eyes of the public “has never been lower, and there is a growing fear among business owners of having to pay out for even the most unreasonable claims”.

Against that background, some of the key recommendations that Lord Young makes are:  

Compensation Culture

  1.  Introduce simplified claims procedures for personal injury claims.
  2. Restrict the operation of referral agencies and personal injury lawyers offering certain types of “no win, no fee” arrangement.
  3.  Control the volume and type of advertising for “no win, no fee” arrangements.
  4.  Clarify, through legislation if necessary, that people will not be held liable for consequences attributed to well intentioned voluntary acts.

Low Hazard Work Places

  1.  Simplify risk assessment procedures for low hazard workplaces such as offices, classrooms and shops.
  2.  The Health and Safety Executive are likely to be tasked with creating simpler interactive risk assessments for low hazard workplaces and to create periodic check lists to allow such business to check and record compliance online.
  3.  Exempt employers from risk assessments for employees working from home in a low hazard environment.
  4. Exempt self-employed people in low hazard businesses from risk assessments.

Raising Standards

  1. It is recommended that health and safety consultants operate with a qualification requirement coupled with accreditation to a professional body.
  2. Establish a web based directory of accredited health and safe consultants.

Insurance

  1. Insurance companies are going to be asked to cease placing a requirement on businesses to employ health and safety consultants to carry out full risk assessments before offering employers liability or public liability insurances.
  2. It is recommended that there is consultation with the insurance industry to ensure that worthwhile activities are not unnecessarily curtailed on health and safety grounds. The insurance industry is likely to be invited to draw up a code of practice and in the event that they are unable to do so, legislation may be considered.

Education

  1.  Simplify the process for organising outings for children undertaken by schools and similar organisations.
  2. Simplify procedures for obtaining parental consent for children’s activities at school.
  3.  Simplify risk assessments for classrooms.
  4. Encourage a shift from risk assessment to a system of risk–benefit assessment and consider reviewing the health and safety legislation to separate play and leisure from the workplace context.

Local Authorities

  1. Lord Young considers that officials who ban events on health and safety grounds should put their reasons for doing so in writing.
  2.  It is envisaged that citizens should then be enabled to have a route to challenge such decisions. Local authorities would be allowed to conduct internal reviews of refusals with a further option to refer decisions to the Ombudsman. It is recommended that the Ombudsman is allowed to award damages where an event that has been banned unreasonably cannot be reinstated.

Health & Safety Legislation

  1.  The HSE are to be encouraged to produce clear, separate guidance for small and medium businesses engaged in lower risk activities.
  2.  Consolidation of the various sets of regulations into a single set is recommended.
  3.  It is suggested that the United Kingdom should encourage the EU to take a more proportionate approach to development of health and safety rules so that the rules applicable to low risk businesses are not overly prescriptive and do not attempt to achieve the elimination of all risk.

Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences

  1.  It is recommended that 7 days are allowed to report an injury or accident.
  2. It is suggested that HSE are tasked with reviewing the current system to identify whether this is the best approach to obtaining an accurate, national picture of workplace accidents.

Combining Food Safety and Health & Safety Inspections

  1. It is recommended that food safety and health and safety inspectors in local authorities combine their roles.
  2.  Make the Food Standards Agency Hygiene Rating Scheme mandatory and encourage voluntary display of ratings.
  3.  Consider putting in place an arrangement for local authority inspections to be undertaken by accredited certification bodies to reduce the burden on local authorities.

Police and Fire Services

  1.  The HSE, Association of Chief Police Officers and Crown Prosecution Service are tasked with introducing further guidance to achieve the end that police officers and fire fighters should not be at risk of investigation or prosecution when they are engaged in their duties, even if they have put themselves at risk as a result of a heroic act.

Adventure Training

  1.  It is recommended that the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority is abolished and the current system of licensing is replaced with a code of practice.

The content of this Report has already been approved by the Government and the indication is that Lord Young will be involved in overseeing the implementation of his report in his ongoing role as advisor to the Prime Minister.

Response to the Report has been mixed. Whilst the HSE welcome the Report findings and see it as “an important milestone on the road to recovery for the reputation of real health and safety”, the TUC expressed grave disappointment that the report contains not a single proposal that will reduce the high levels of workplace death, injuries and illness”

Whatever your view of the findings of this review, it is going to take some time to implement the recommendations and to assess any improvements brought to what is an important area of law.