How Safety Law Reforms May Affect Workers

Soon after coming to power, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, asked Lord Young to review health and safety law in the UK. In October 2010, Lord Young published his review, Common Sense, Common Safety. David Cameron agreed with all of the review’s contents and said that the government would act on its recommendations.

Workplaces

Many of Lord Young’s recommendations apply to low risk work environments. These are places such as shops, offices and classrooms. The review states that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) should produce a simpler Risk Assessment process for low risk workplaces. This process should be available for anyone to view on the HSE website.

In addition, the HSE should develop checklists for businesses and voluntary organisations. These checklists should ensure that a business or voluntary organisation that has a low risk workplace is following health and safety law. Lord Young also proposes two exemptions from workplace risk assessments: the self-employed and employees who Work from Home. The exemptions should apply if such workers are in low risk environments.

Consultants

Health and safety consultants do not always hold a qualification from a professional body. Lord Young’s review suggests that the HSE should help to validate qualifications. The review goes on to say that once the validation process is up and running, professional health and safety bodies should take it over.

This means that in the future, all health and safety consultants should have an accredited qualification. Their names should also appear in a directory of qualified consultants published on the Internet.

Insurance

Insurance companies often insist that organisations with low risk workplaces use consultants for health and safety risk assessments. The review says that this practice should stop. It also says that the government must speak to the insurance industry. The aim is to make sure useful business activities do not face restrictions because of insurance companies’ insistence on health and safety measures.

To push this proposal forward, the review suggests that insurance firms create a health and safety code of practice. If the industry fails to create a code, the government should consider introducing one that has legal force.

Rules

The review wants the legal aspects of health and safety law in the workplace simplified as follows:

  • The HSE should produce separate guidance for small and medium-sized organisations that have low risk workplaces
  • The government should bring together all health and safety law into one set of rules
  • The government should encourage the EU to change its health and safety rules for low risk workplaces. These rules should be reasonable and should not try to dispense with all risk

Recording Workplace Accidents

Lord Young’s review has concerns about the way the law obliges organisations to record workplace accidents. The review suggests a change to the time frame during which people must report an accident at work. This period should increase to seven days.

The review also proposes that the HSE should conduct an enquiry into the Accident Reporting mechanism. The aim is to find out if the current mechanism really does give accurate details of accidents at work.

Last Updated on 25 May 2021

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