In a recession-struck world, costs are going up and cuts are hitting us all, not least in the budgets of the regulators. Regulators are quickly turning to new ways to recoup their outlay and, simultaneously, legislation is under review.

The landscape of health and safety is ever changing, so here we take a look at some forthcoming reviews and legislation that will affect all those responsible for risk management.

The goal - "Good Health and Safety, Good for Everyone"

Following Lord Young's report "Common Sense, Common Safety", published in October 2010, the government published a plan for reform in March, entitled "Good Health and Safety, Good for Everyone". Its key aims are to:

Ensure businesses have access to good advice by setting up a register of consultants.

Launch a major review of health and safety legislation.

Target limited resources and ensure that those who breach the law, pay for it.

The Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register (OSHCR) is already up and running.

The changes will impact on your business.

The review - Professor Löfstedt

Professor Löfstedt is currently conducting a review to determine whether there is any scope for combining, simplifying or reducing about 200 health and safety regulations. He will be looking at the situation abroad, considering whether the regulations have been unnecessarily enhanced in the UK and whether they have had any real effect on outcomes, or have just increased costs.

We expect the full report to be published in November 2011. We will keep you posted!

The Löfstedt review should also be seen alongside the Government's red tape challenge which considered health and safety in June and July. The Government remains determined to achieve a more proportionate approach from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), a common sense approach from the wider health and safety community and a change in public attitude. Time will tell.

The cost - HSE costs recovery scheme

In response to budget cuts of 35%, the HSE is seeking to recover the costs of any interventions it makes through a new 'Costs Recovery Scheme'. The HSE is keen to emphasise that there are no targets for recovery under this scheme, but it thinks the proposals will bring in around £43.6 million per year.

This scheme is entering a pilot period this month, with a full roll out beginning on 6 April 2012.

Costs recovery - charging it to you

The Government is placing a duty on the HSE to recover the costs of its investigations from any 'duty holder' who makes a 'material breach' of health and safety law. Currently Local Authority Investigations will be exempt, but this could change.

A 'duty holder' is any employer or self-employed person who has duties under health and safety law. A 'material breach' is a breach that requires an inspector to make a formal intervention, or "something an inspector could not walk away from". This will be up to the individual inspector to decide. Therefore, there may be inconsistency.

Anyone who is found not to have committed a breach, or committed only a 'technical breach', will not have to pay anything. A technical breach is a breach that does not require the inspector to make a formal investigation.

The HSE will also target its proactive inspections and ultimately reduce their number by one third. Reactive visits will remain unchanged.

What will I have to pay?

For inspections which result in a formal letter, the costs will be approximately £750. This rises to approximately £1,500 for an inspection that results in an Improvement or Prohibition notice.These costs will be invoiced on a monthly basis.

The HSE will continue to seek its costs if it prosecutes.

What if I dispute the costs?

Anyone investigated will be able to dispute the costs being recovered by the HSE. However, the HSE will recover all costs for any disputes that are not upheld, at an estimated hourly rate of £133. The HSE itself will decide whether disputes are upheld or not.

What else is happening?

Control of Asbestos

In response to pressure from the European Commission the HSE is considering new "Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012". It is consulting on these until 4 November 2011 and aims to publish the regulations in April 2012.

The proposed regulations introduce a new category of work involving asbestos called "Notifiable Non-Licensed Work" (NNLW).

This means there will now be three categories of work:

  1. Licensed and Notifiable - remains unchanged
  2. Notifiable Non-Licensed Work - a new category where the materials containing Asbestos will be damaged by the works or are friable.
  3. Non-Notifiable Non-Licensed Work - where the materials containing asbestos will not be damaged or are non-friable.

When undertaking NNLW you will have to:

  • Notify the relevant authority before work is commenced (but you do not need a licence to do the work).
  • Have arrangements in place to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies.
  • Designate asbestos areas.
  • Carry out medical examinations before exposure begins and then at least every three years afterwards.
  • Maintain a health record for each employee.

If you do not comply, then you may be prosecuted. Again, we will keep an eye on developments and comment in more detail after the results of the consultation are known.

Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR)

The HSE consultation on amending RIDDOR has now closed and responses are being evaluated. The proposal is to increase the period of absence from work before which a report needs to be made from three to seven days and the period by which the report should be made to the HSE from 10 to 15 days. It will still be necessary to retain internal records for every absence over three days.

The outcome

As ever, the landscape continues to change. Change means uncertainty and this makes risk management more difficult. It is more important than ever to be vigilant.