Yet More Government Cuts Compromise Health and Safety in the Workplace

Guest Post

There have been yet more government cuts recently, and the latest in line to bare the brunt of the economic crisis in the UK is the Health and Safety Executive. As of April 2013, thousands of businesses will not have to undergo compulsory health and safety inspections, unless they are considered to be high-risk workspaces, such as food preparation areas or construction sites. This effectively gives thousands of businesses the green light to cut corners without consequence; until injuries or fatalities occur, that is.

Ministers claim that the current checks simply aren’t feasible in the current economic climate, costing the Government millions of pounds each year. They added that health and safety checks also place an unnecessary burden on businesses.

The new rules will see around 3,000 regulations no longer enforced by the government, and cutting the bureaucracy will save millions of pounds, which the government says could be better spent elsewhere.

However, this will undoubtedly cause a backlash from trade unions, as this could potentially increase the risk of injury or death for employers. The debate is rife as to whether the current regulations are excessive and burdensome on businesses, or whether they are necessary to protect the welfare of employees.

health and safety accidentHowever, this doesn’t necessarily mean that those businesses with a history of poor health and safety standards will get off free and be allowed to continue to provide poor dangerous working conditions for their employees. These businesses will continue to be inspected.

As soon as next month, new legislation will be introduced, whereby businesses can only be held liable for civil damages if they are proven to have acted negligently. This will help to reduce the risk of employees taking advantage of the legal system and making unnecessary claims against employers.

Excessive regulation, also referred to as ‘red tape’ is often seen as the bane of this country, with health and safety at the forefront of the mockery that comes with the over-regulation. Alexander Ehmann, head of regulatory policy at the Institute of Directors welcomes the legislation and commented:

"This is the beginning, not the end, of the deregulation story".

By comparison, Bob Crow, leader of the RMT said that the new legislation is, “an all-out attack on safety, which will have lethal consequences for workers and the public alike.”

Exactly what impact this legislation will have, remains to be seen.

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