· 2 min read · News

BIS gets busy over red tape

Published:

Business secretary Vince Cable MP announced yesterday a blitz on “over 3,000 regulations to be scrapped or overhauled”, a further instalment in the Government’s drive to reduce red tape. Shops, offices, pubs and clubs will no longer face “burdensome” health and safety inspections, BIS announced.

From April 2013, the Government intends to introduce binding new rules on both the Health & Safety Executive and on local authorities that will exempt hundreds of thousands of businesses from burdensome, regular health & safety inspections.

In future, businesses would only face health and safety inspections if they were operating in higher risk areas such as construction, or if they have an incident or a track record of poor performance. ??In addition, the Government said it would introduce legislation next month to ensure that businesses will only be held liable for civil damages in health and safety cases if they can be shown to have acted negligently. This will end the current situation where businesses can automatically be liable for damages even if they were not actually negligent.

The Government said it is systematically examining some 6,500 substantive regulations that it inherited through the Red Tape Challenge process. The Government is now committing to abolish or substantially reduce at least 3,000 of these regulations and it will complete the identification of the regulations to be scrapped or overhauled by December 20.

The Government was accused by a leading health and safety body of producing “a misleading announcement”.

Richard Jones, head of policy and public affairs at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), said: “These sorts of announcements have been made before and it is very disappointing that everyone immediately starts pointing the finger at health and safety, which is always seen as an easy target. “The talk of reducing around 3,000 regulations and at the same time focusing on health and safety is misleading. There are only 200 health and safety regulations in total, so any reduction in these will be a tiny percentage of the 3,000 and so far only 21 have been considered.”

Jones said two recent government reviews, by Lord Young and Professor Ragnar Löfstedt, and the Red Tape Challenge, all found the health and safety system in this country to be broadly ‘fit for purpose’. “The problem is with a misunderstanding of what the real requirements are – so we need better education on sensible management of risk,” Jones said. “There is an exaggerated fear of being sued in this country, fed by aggressive marketing, which the Government needs to tackle.”

John McClean GMB national health and safety officer at trader union GMB, said: “This is nothing new and is in effect a regurgitation of previous statements. This is just propaganda to appease the right wing from a new minister – none of which is new or unfortunately surprising.

“Current laws in this area were not enforced very strongly anyway. The burdens will now fall on individuals and society in suffering and cost. Most small and medium firms would not be able to identify the legislation that states they should carry out risk assessments,” McClean added.