I’ve read think tank reports examining ways of reducing the burden of health and safety regulations. I’ve read similar reports from Government departments looking at ways to tackle the health and safety regulatory burden. And I’ve read a fair few articles claiming health and safety laws are the biggest administrative burden suffered by UK businesses.
And then there’s Lord Young’s recent report – Common Sense, Common Safety. In it, the former adviser to the Prime Minister uses the word “burden” no less than 23 times in 40 pages when reviewing the operation of health and safety laws in the UK.
I’d like to put this word “burden” into context…
Take the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 for example. Here, those responsible for non-domestic premises have several things to do. Reasonable steps have to be taken to establish if asbestos is present in their building – how much, where it is and what condition it’s in. The risk of exposure to asbestos has to be managed and records maintained. Most importantly, anyone who is likely to work on the building – such as maintenance workers and tradespeople – has to be given information on the location and condition of the asbestos.
Some might say this is all a bit of a burden.
But what if someone, say a plumber carrying out work on a building, is exposed to asbestos. Sometime in the future he or she could suffer from an asbestos related illness, such as pleural mesothelioma.
Pleural mesothelioma is a cancer that develops in the thick lining around the lungs. As it develops, symptoms and treatment become hard to endure. There is no cure and to be blunt, it’s a horrific way to die. It’s a true burden, for sufferers and for their family and friends.
Health and safety laws stop people from being killed or injured. Sometimes people misunderstand these laws, or over complicate and over apply them so that they take up a little more time than they should. That’s inconvenient.
But a burden? Perhaps some people should choose their words more carefully.