The Government has announced a package of changes to the UK’s health and safety system, including a large cut in the number of at-work inspections.
The Chancellor, George Osborne, confirmed in his latest budget that the recommendations in Lord Young’s report Common Sense, Common Safety would be implemented in full. In terms of Lord Young’s recommendations, employers will no longer face automatic health and safety inspections. Instead, health and safety inspectors will be instructed to focus on high risk locations and industries, such as major energy facilities and ‘rogue’ employers. Such an approach will cut the number of inspections carried out in the UK by at least a third. The inspection cuts coincide with a sharp reduction in the HSE’s budget (approximately 35% over five years) under the Comprehensive Spending Review. Rogue employers who endanger public and employee safety will also have to pay for the costs of investigations into their activities.
Work and Pensions Minister, Chris Grayling MP, stated that “Of course it is right to protect employees in the workplace, but Britain’s health and safety culture is also stifling business and holding back economic growth. The purpose of health and safety regulation is to protect people at work and rightly so. But we need common sense at the heart of the system, and these measures will help root out the needless burden of bureaucracy”.
The Government is also launching a review of all existing health and safety laws, with a view to scrapping regulations perceived to be unnecessary and burdensome on businesses. Professor Ragnar E Lofstedt of King’s College London will chair the review and publish findings this autumn.
Judith Hackitt, the HSE Chair, commented that “The HSE remains focused on preventing death, serious injury and ill health to those at work and those affected by work activities. With even better targeting of our activities we will further help small businesses to understand what they need to do. This will enable us to give the highest level of attention to those areas with the potential to cause most harm and where we can have the greatest impact.”