In March 2011, the Government established an Independent Review of Health and Safety legislation to make proposals for simplifying the existing raft of health and safety legislation. This review was chaired by leading risk management specialist Professor Rainier Löfstedt. The report was published in November 2011.

Professor Löfstedt made recommendations aimed at reducing the burden of unnecessary regulation on businesses while maintaining Britain’s health and safety performance. The Government has accepted his recommendations that include:

  • Exempting from health and safety law those self-employed whose work activities pose no potential risk of harm to others.
  • That HSE should review all its Approved Codes of Practice. The initial phase of the review should be completed by June 2012 so businesses have certainty about what is planned and when changes can be anticipated.
  • That HSE undertakes a programme of sector-specific consolidations to be completed by April 2015.
  • That legislation is changed to give HSE the authority to direct all local authority health and safety inspection and enforcement activity, in order to ensure that it is consistent and targeted towards the most risky workplaces.

Professor Löfstedt concluded that the general sweep of requirements set out in health and safety regulation are broadly fit for purpose but there are a few that offer little benefit to health and safety and which the Government should remove, revise or clarify, in particular the duties for self-employed people whose work activities pose no potential risk of harm to others.

He believes that the much bigger problem is that regulatory requirements are misunderstood and applied inappropriately. He has recommended a streamlining of regulation through consolidation and re-directing enforcement activity towards businesses where there is the greatest risk of injury or ill-health.

The HSE has welcomed the reforms and have stated that they will meet the timetable set by the Government for implementing those recommendations for which they are responsible. The industry waits to see what difference any reforms will, in reality, make to both enforcement and cases of litigation.

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