At present the average employer will never see a health and safety inspector; the chances of them being prosecuted are virtually nil unless they kill or seriously injure anyone.
Our guest writer is Hugh Robertson, senior health and safety policy officer at the TUC
The Government has today announced a review of health and safety laws and the rise of the compensation culture – or at least that is what a press release from Number 10 says. In fact this review, by former trade secretary Lord Young, was actually announced by David Cameron in December last year and is due to be completed within a couple of months.
It is an interesting insight into the workings of the new Coalition Government that a review of regulation by the conservatives has suddenly been transformed into a government review and that Lord Young is to report, not to Vince Cable – whose department is responsible for regulation – but to David Cameron.
What is even more depressing, but not unexpected, is that the review will focus on the effect of legislation on business. Health and safety law is not there to protect business. It is there to protect workers from employers, who, despite the existing laws, still manage to injure a quarter of a million people every year, and make another half a million ill.
Basically this whole agenda is being driven, not by a real desire to improve regulation, but by the need to be seen to be reacting to the scare stories about “elf and safety gone mad”, that we see in the media. In the past the TUC has gone to great lengths trying to show that these myths are just that and that the reality is that our health and safety laws are woefully inadequate as shown by the ill-health and injuries figures.
The inclusion of “the compensation culture” over the past 10 years is equally ridiculous. Over the past 10 years the number of claims against employers has gone down, and of those that do get heard, the number that fail is around 1 per cent. Our worry is that this will end up as yet another attempt to prevent workers claiming compensation from their employer when they are injured or made ill.
What is necessary is not a review of the needs of business, but a review of how to make the existing laws more effective, and also to make directors of companies responsible for their companies’ actions. But the biggest need is for greater enforcement.
At present the average employer will never see a health and safety inspector, and even if they are failing to fulfil their basic legal obligations, such as risk assessment, the chances of them being prosecuted are virtually nil unless they kill or seriously injure anyone.
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