New health and safety proposals
Lord Young has published his report “Common sense, common safety”, which outlines recommendations which he believes will improve health and safety procedures in workplaces. The reforms are aimed at returning workplaces to common sense safety.
The report outlines Lord Young’s view that there is alarm amongst business owners of the increase in compensation claims, resulting in the implementation of extremely risk averse policies. The aim, therefore, of the implementation of these proposals is to eradicate this fear.
The report recognises that the health and safety legislation currently in place has been effective and that today the UK has the lowest number of non-fatal accidents and the second lowest number of fatal accidents at work in Europe. The report, therefore, does not deal with hazardous occupations, which Lord Young states the legislation was aimed at, but rather at how it has been applied disproportionately to low risk businesses. A recent survey illustrated that small businesses felt that health and safety legislation was nearly twice as much an obstacle to business success as any other legislation.
The report identifies classrooms, shops and offices as low hazard environments, as risk of injury or death is minimal. The main risks of low hazard workplaces include repetitive strain injury, minor slips and trips and injuries from lifting and moving objects. However the report does not deal with work place stress and related injuries and/or conditions.
Some of the recommendations that Lord Young makes include:
- The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) should develop downloadable checklists so that organisations with low hazard workplaces can check and record that they are complying with their legal obligations and controlling risk so far as reasonably practicable. This should include online demonstrations on best practice.
- The HSE should simplify risk assessments for low hazard workplaces by creating interactive risk assessments for these types of environments and ensure they are available online. The HSE has already developed an interactive guide for office environments, accessible at www.hse.gov.uk.risk/office.htm. Similar tools for other low risk workplaces are currently being developed.
- Similar checklists should be developed for voluntary organisations.
- Employers should be exempt from undertaking risk assessments for employees working from home in low hazard environments.
- Those who are self-employed should also be exempted from risk assessments if in a low hazard business.
- Insurance companies should not compel businesses operating in low hazard workplaces to use health and safety consultants to undertake risk assessments.
- The HSE should produce a guidance focusing on small and medium sized businesses, who are engaged with lower risk activities.
- The health and safety regulations should be consolidated into one single set.
- The time frame to report workplace accidents/injuries to the HSE’s Incident Contact Centre, should be increased from 3 to 7 days, coinciding with the requirement for individuals to obtain a fit note from their GP, if their absence is expected to last over a week.
The report has already been approved by the Government however it will take some time before the recommendations are fully put into practice. Lord Young has set out a timeline in his report for implementation which will be from now until spring 2012.
This report has however come in at the same time that spending cuts for the HSE have been announced. The cut to the budget of 35% is bound to have an impact on the implementation of Lord Young’s proposals.
For now we will have to watch this space.....
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