Health and safety law may change for the self-employed

The Health and Safety Executive of the UK regularly issues bulletins with key changes in regulations, often seeking public input beforehand to be sure that the revisions contemplated will serve all aspects of the public good. Rarely has the HSE contemplated changes so sweeping as those under consideration at the moment, however. The HSE has just announced that it is opening a consultation session on whether or not self-employed individuals should be subject to health and safety law at all.

The consultation session is slated to last for three months. The exact question at issue is whether a self-employed worker should have to follow HSE guidelines if their work duties represent no risk of damage or harm to other individuals. A recent review conducted by Professor Löfstedt has recommended that such workers should be exempted from the regulations. This would represent a large change to existing rules, since the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 explicitly requires the self-employed to guard themselves from harm while carrying out work activities.

HSE Policy Advisor Sarah Wadham explained further: “The questions in the Consultative Document concern how best to give effect to Professor Löfstedt’s recommendation and HSE would particularly welcome comments from the self-employed about the proposal.”

No revision is contemplated for self-employed individuals whose work duties could potentially have an adverse impact on others. Thus, the self-employed in certain lines of high-hazard work would not be affected. These include both the farm and construction trades. The consultation session will be open until the last week in October, at which time the board of the HSE is expected to make an official recommendation.