Health & safety inspections scrapped for low-risk businesses

The Government has announced that from April 2013 only businesses operating in high-risk areas (e.g. construction) will have regular health and safety inspections.

All other businesses will escape inspections from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or local authorities, apart from those who have a track record for poor performance or have had a previous health and safety incident.

The government is scrapping red tape and will be removing 3,000 of the 6,500 regulations that currently exist. Included in the planned changes is that businesses will no longer be held liable for civil damages in health and safety cases, unless the claimant can prove that the business acted negligently.

Currently, businesses are automatically liable for damages, even when they may not be at fault.

The government’s overhaul of the regulations is to remove legislative burden from businesses. Business Secretary Vince Cable commented:

"In these tough times, businesses need to focus all their energies on creating jobs and growth, not being tied up in unnecessary red tape."

"I've listened to those concerns and we're determined to put common sense back into areas like health and safety, which will reduce costs and fear of burdensome inspections."

With the current legislation, all businesses, including low-risk businesses, such as offices, shops, hotels and restaurants, can face “proactive” health and safety inspections.

The new system aims for these inspections to be only focused on those businesses where a genuine complaint or real incident has been flagged to the HSE.

But businesses in high-risk areas (e.g. construction, gas fitting, agriculture, explosives and mining) will still face proactive visits.

According to the government, regulatory burdens on business have been reduced by £850 million since 2011.

As part of its Red Tape Challenge, the government has already reformed the employment tribunal process. Now, an unfair dismissal can only be brought by an employee if they have worked at the company for two years; previously it was one year.

From next month parts of the Equality Act are being reformed, and the regulations directing businesses where they should place ‘No Smoking’ signs and what they should be like will be scrapped.

The government has also promised a ‘one in, one out’ principle, whereby any business costs imposed by domestic regulations will be matched by an equivalent saving.

The government plans to free up around 1,000,000 self-employed people from burdensome health and safety law, and improve or scrap around 85% of health and safety regulations.

Alexander Ehmann of the Institute of Directors welcomed the changes:

"Excessive regulation costs time and money, both of which businesses would rather spend on developing new products, hiring staff and building up British businesses both here and abroad.

"Removing the headache of health and safety inspections for low-risk businesses is a step change. 

"Scrapping unnecessary and unpredictable inspections is a valuable piece of deregulation and the Government is to be congratulated for taking such bold and decisive action on behalf of Britain's businesses."

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Published on: September 24, 2012

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