While health and safety in the workplace is important, the volume and ambiguity of this regulation means that it is often misapplied, with small- and medium-sized firms particularly affected.
In a survey of nearly 6,000 employers, published yesterday by the BCC, nearly half (47%) claimed regulation around health and safety issues was a burden on their business.
A fifth of sole traders identified health and safety regulation as a barrier to taking on their first employee. The cumulative cost of health and safety regulation in the UK amounts to over £4 billion.
The BCC makes the following three recommendations around health and safety rules:
Tailor regulation to the risk level of the workplace: low-risk businesses are often treated in the same manner as high-risk firms.
Streamline and simplify legislation to reduce costs and confusion: the sheer number of laws causes uncertainty and means health and safety is in danger of being a tick-box exercise, says the BCC.
Review UK implementation of EU directives: UK legislation has taken already stringent EU directives further to include the self-employed, and there are examples of duplication between UK and EU rules that bring unnecessary costs.
David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "Health and safety regulation in the workplace is important, but it must be made more industry-specific. The UK has a good record on health and safety and preventing accidents at work. However, employers are dealing with a multitude of regulations that do not necessarily add to the safety of workers. The government's Red Tape Challenge lists 131 separate health and safety regulations. The sheer volume of rules causes confusion for employers, particularly among smaller firms without the resource to tackle this.
"Good health and safety legislation is crucial in high-risk environments and must protect employees from genuinely dangerous hazards in the workplace. But time and time again, we hear of unnecessary and unreasonable examples of health and safety. For example, home workers are treated in the same way as those working onsite, with the employer forced to conduct ever-more elaborate and costly assessments of the employee's home environment.
"Where regulation is irrelevant or misapplied, we are asking the Government to consolidate and simplify. We welcome Löfstedt's review for the Government into health and safety, and hope this will deliver for business. Only a straightforward and more proportionate system of health and safety regulation will make it easier for employers to comply, and allow them to focus on growing their businesses, driving employment and contributing to economic growth. "