The government plans to make changes to health and safety regulations in an effort to cut down on bureaucracy levels "tying up" the vast majority of Britain's businesses, it has been announced.
Business leaders have welcomed the reforms, which will see a refocusing of priorities on to employers and consultants with a track record of flouting rules and locations that are known to be high risk such as major energy sites.
But union chiefs have criticised the plans, claiming they will put the health and safety of workers in danger while also damaging the economy.
Fewer health and safety inspections will be carried out under the changes, meaning that, in theory, responsible employers will no longer be restrained by red tape.
Ministers said they also wanted to eliminate "cowboy" health and safety consultants who were unqualified but were deemed to be responsible for many of Britain's most "inappropriate" health and safety recommendations.
A new register of qualified consultants will be made available to businesses, and those who are untrained or give false advice will be excluded from the approved list.
The review of existing regulations will be chaired by Professor Ragnar E Lofstedt, of King's College London, and will publish its findings in the autumn.
British Chambers of Commerce director general David Frost said: "Simplifying and codifying health and safety laws will help employers spend less time on tick box exercises, and more time focusing on growing their businesses."
Copyright © Press Association 2011
Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"The latest set of changes to workplace health and safety guidance aim to ease some of the administrative burden often faced by businesses. But employers should avoid interpreting the reduction in inspections as a reason to lose focus on workplace safety. It’s vital that all employers make the necessary efforts to ensure their health and safety provision is
up-to-scratch in terms of both primary and secondary planning, or they will face severe consequences, now potentially including the costs of inspection. We urge employers to take this opportunity to make sure that they are not only minimising the chances of injury for their employees, but they have the trained and equipped personnel in place to respond when accidents do occur. We’ve seen the impact that poor health and safety practices can have on a business, be it financial, reputational or even worse, at the cost of someone’s life. By training more than the regulatory minimum of staff in
first aid, employers can not only ensure they are meeting regulatory requirements, but reducing dangerous gaps and increasing employee safety" – Richard Evens, St John Ambulance
"About time too. I have been a health and safety inspector – it was all about paperwork and less so about employee safety. I was appalled at what I was supposed to do and the huge costs it put upon managers who were trying to both make a profit and encourage their employees. I was very happy to stop being a 'snooper'" – M Stewart, St Andrews