Lord Young’s Report on Health & Safety Published
Oct 18, 2010
The long awaited report by Lord Young of Graffham to the Prime Minister was published on October 15. The report entitled ‘Common Sense, Common Safety’ was commissioned by David Cameron whilst still leader of the opposition, and is a Whitehall-wide review of the operation of health and safety laws and the growth of the compensation culture in the UK.
Whilst Mr Cameron states health & safety is important, he felt legislation had been misinterpreted leading to much derision in the press and, therefore, leaving health & safety with a poor standing within the general public. Since becoming Prime Minister, Mr Cameron asked Lord Young to continue with the review.
Lord Young’s report mentions the apparent ‘Compensation Culture’, where claims are made for the most trivial reasons and reported accordingly in the press are commonplace. Whilst many of these claims are undoubtedly sensationalised by the press, the underlying perception these stories give can lead to fears – and costly burdens by employers up and down the country.
Lord Young also mentions the rise of the ‘No Win, No Fee’ solicitors and their sometimes aggressive marketing campaigns, where the ‘victim’ of an injury is entitled to claim vast sums and encouraged to claim, regardless of any personal responsibility.
The report also takes to task health & safety consultants, particularly those who operate without any professional qualifications, who give over-zealous advice due to their lack of knowledge and expertise in relation to regulations and the particular situation. Insurance companies are also taken to task in the report for their over-interpretation of the regulations.
Some of the main points of Lord Young’s proposals include:
- Simplifying the claims procedure in court, with a fixed costs system
- Restrictions on the operations of referral agencies and personal injury lawyers, with controls on their advertising
- Simplifying the risk assessment procedure for low hazard workplaces (such as shops and offices), with the HSE to create simple documents and checklists to download from its website
- Introducing a standard qualification for H&S consultants, and a consultant’s register with a web-based directory
- Insurance companies to develop a Code of Practice on health & safety for businesses – with legislation considered if this is not forthcoming – to prevent the unnecessary curtailment of work activities, along with cessation of the practice requiring low hazard businesses being required to appoint H&S consultants to carry out a full risk assessment programme – however if such consultants are necessary, they must be selected from those on the register
- Simplify the risk assessment process for school activities and outings
- Introduce a single consent form covering all school activities a child may undertake
- Local Authorities who ban events on ‘health & safety grounds’ should put the reasons in writing
- People will be able to challenge the decisions made by local authorities, with the authority having to conduct an internal review, and the right to appeal to the Ombudsman in the case of unfair decisions
- The HSE should produce clearer guidance to small and medium businesses in low hazard activities
- The HSE should consolidate the current regulations into a single set of accessible regulations
- The RIDDOR regulations on reporting of accidents to be examined and amended where necessary to clarify and simplify the reporting process
- Local Authorities to combine health & safety and food safety inspectors and inspections
- Police and Fire Service staff not to be put under investigation or possible prosecution for putting themselves in danger whilst in the process of an heroic act
Lord Young is to continue his work as an adviser to the Prime Minister to ensure these proposals are actually put in to practice.
The misinterpretation of health & safety laws – even when made with good intent – and their subsequent derision by the press, leads to low standing of health & safety. Other agencies as mentioned by Lord Young in his report have also played their part in this.
If these recommendations are properly worked through, the perceived (and sometimes real) burdens of excessive paperwork on small businesses will be reduced.
Health & safety will be interpreted and delivered by competent professionals and could possibly lead to a situation where the popular consensus on health & safety will be one of a ‘good system that keeps people safe at work’ rather than one that is ‘bonkers conkers’ as consistently reported in the press.
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