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UK Government Promises To Relax Health And Safety Red Tape
Posted by David Cant on June 9, 2014

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Heath and Safety Red Tape and the Proposed Reforms

In the same week that a primary school banned parents from attending sports day for fear of a ‘Hillsborough-style crush’, the British government has announced plans to reduce health and safety red tape for responsible employers. The move is intended to bring about an end to the ‘elf n safety’ culture that many employers believe are unfairly placing their businesses at risk of prosecution.

Aimed at volunteers, applies to employers

The announcement was made by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to coincide with the start of National Volunteers’ Week in a bid to encourage more people to get involved with community-based projects. By reducing the red tape risks that often deter good Samaritans, Grayling hopes that more people will be willing to perform good deeds and to help out in emergencies.

However the legislation, which ministers hope to make law by the beginning of next year, will also included clauses that apply specifically to employers. Writing on the ConservativeHome website, Mr Grayling said;

Take the responsible employer, who puts in place proper training for staff, who has sensible safety procedures, and tries to do the right thing. And then someone injures themselves doing something stupid or something that no reasonable person would ever have expected to be a risk. Common sense says that the law should not simply penalise the employer for what has gone wrong.

Clearly these changes will be welcome news for employers should they become law.

Not an end to employer responsibility

It is important to note that these proposals do not place the whole burden for health and safety provisions onto employees however. Your business will still be expected to ensure that staff are fully trained in their roles and the appropriate safeguards are in place to protect them at work.

Chris Grayling explained the intended outcomes thus,

We need a system that is rooted in common sense. Of course those who are negligent, or who act in a way that is foolish or reckless should be able to be punished by the law. But those who are trying to do the right thing should believe that the law will be on their side.”

How to stay legal now and in future

As long as the legislation is passed, your business should be immune from prosecution assuming that you can demonstrate:

  • Your staff have been fully trained in their roles.
  • Your business has complied with all relevant legal guidelines and industry standards.
  • You have performed the relevant risk assessments and implemented any identified safety measures.

Clearly your responsible person will continue to fulfill an extremely important role within your business, helping to safeguard employees and the general public, and to protect your business against prosecution. In terms of operations, the new legislation will change little, but it should help your business avoid ‘elf n safety’ type over-reaction in future.

Over to you – what do you make of the proposed changes?


Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME's favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick.

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  1. Ciaran O'Neill
    June 24, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    News flash Mr Grayling; common sense is implicit in health and safety. Worrying that you and Dave don’t seem to appreciate this The employees duty to comply with all an employer puts in place as regards health and safety is contained in the original 1974 health and safety act. . The “elf and safety culture” is more a product of Sun/Daily Mail invention than anything else, fuelled by the activities of ambulance chasing lawyers and by bureaucrats afraid of their own shadows and who will ban anything they think a cash for crutches legal firm will get them for.

  2. Frankie Thomas
    July 14, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    I believe that doing a online fire safety course is very important and every employee should be given the chance to go on one. I think everyone thinks they know what to do in case of a fire but when it actually comes to it, you can become quite panicked and that’s when you need to be calm.

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