Do we need a review of Health & Safety Legislation?
Lord Young has finally been brought in to carry out a review of Health & Safety Legislation and the so called ubiquitous “Compensation Culture” that seems to plague our very existence.
Before I comment, I would ask you to read the following extract from Lord Young’s announcement:
Prime Minister David Cameron has appointed former cabinet minister Lord Young to lead a Whitehall-wide review of health and safety legislation and the rise of the so-called compensation culture.
The announcement puts on a formal footing Lord Young’s work towards a report on the nation’s health and safety system
, which he was asked last December to prepare for the Conservatives in opposition. In his revamped role as adviser to the Prime Minister on health and safety law and practice, Lord Young will report to Mr Cameron in the summer and will then work with the relevant government departments to bring his proposals into effect. “The rise of the compensation culture over the last 10 years is a real concern, as is the way health and safety rules are sometimes applied,” said Mr Cameron. “We need a sensible new approach that makes clear these laws are intended to protect people, not overwhelm businesses with red tape.”
Welcoming his new role, Lord Young, who served as trade and industry secretary under Margaret Thatcher, emphasised that while health and safety regulation is essential in many industries, “it may well have been applied too generally and have become an unnecessary burden” on firms, community organisations and public services.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, he said that over the past 10 to 12 years a “nanny state” had developed. “There is no question, in any dangerous occupation, in any place where people are in danger, health and safety rules will apply. But there are so many parts of life where it is an absolute nonsense. If there were still music halls, it would be a music hall joke.”
Unions immediately criticised the review’s remit and its business-centric approach. “This will not be an open and frank review aimed at achieving better regulation,” said TUC general secretary Brendan Barber. “Instead it is an attempt to undermine the already limited protection that workers have by focusing on the needs of business.”
He added that it was surprising that the review was looking at the compensation culture yet again, when research has repeatedly shown there is no such thing.“Rather than focusing solely on the ‘needs of business’, the Government should protect workers by increasing inspections and enforcement action against employers who put their staff at risk by ignoring existing laws, as well as introducing a legal duty on directors to protect their workers,” he said.
Mitchell Winter Head of Practice comments:
The appointment of Lord Young to review Health & Safety legislation including the so called “compensation culture” and “nanny State” is in my opinion not only unfounded but completely misguided.
The first question we have to ask is, why does business feel so burden by red tape and apparently live in fear of both civil and criminal prosecution?
I feel that it is somewhat ironic that you have chosen to ignore the fact that it was a Conservative Government that led the adoption of the revolutionary introduction of new Health & Safety Regulations in 1992 affectionately known as the “six pack”
To be precise, the “six pack” led by The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1992 (amended 1999) contains the primary requirement for Employers to undertake a series of Risk Assessments, from which non competent and misguided persons have so predictably misinterpreted this requirement leading to the state of confusion, rumours and myths that now exists, including the “conkers bonkers” scenario.
To suggest a review which would no doubt utilise millions of pounds of tax payers money is ridiculous and unfounded. Perhaps Sir you should conduct a review to ensure the correct interpretation and application of the very same Regulations your Party introduced.
So as to ensure you are aware of the bigger picture, it should be asked why Employers are so fearful of litigation (personal injury claims and criminal prosecution) and why we now live in such a litigious society. Most people consider we follow the American model and culture which could not be further from the truth.
It is a direct consequence of the abolition of legal aid here in the UK for the majority of personal injury claims and to my limited knowledge first tabled by your Party and introduced in 1998 effective year 2000.
This abolition has led to an explosion of so called Personal Injury Lawyers who occupy most of the media with an ubiquitous advertising slogan “have you had an accident at work?” & “No win No Fee” so who can blame the public for taking advantage of such a generous offer.
The true objective and general application of Health & Safety is to ensure that Employees, Contractors and the Public are not subjected to unnecessary hazards so as to avoid “harm” for example slips, trips, falls and Manual Handling injuries that cost the NHS millions of pounds each year to treat.
I personally invite Lord Young to spend a day with my Practice to see the effective and appreciated work we do. Let him talk to the Workstation users who praise our efforts to ensure they do not suffer Repetitive Strain Injuries/Work Related Upper Limb Disorders whilst sitting at a computer for hours on end or the Employers who thank us for increasing productivity and profitability and add value to their business by way of reduced absenteeism and not forgetting the reduced insurance premiums as a consequence of the absence of claims for personal injuries.
Whilst on the subject of Insurance and perhaps of greater consequence is the fact that “Insurers” will need to be consulted about the review as most if not all Insurance Companies currently require the insured to be fully conforming to and with Health & Safety legislation. Failure to do so often invalidates a range of Insurance(s) from Fire damage to personal injury claims.
For the record Sir, hang your baskets, play conkers and encourage your children to go on school trips, learning should be fun.
Head of Practice
Winter & Company Health & Safety Consultants
City of London EC4.
Tel:020 3858 0223.