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?