Teresa Budworth: Let’s get health and safety ‘burden’ into context

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Recently, I’ve read a lot about how health and safety can be a “burden.”

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.

About Teresa Budworth

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About Teresa Budworth

Teresa Budworth, Chief Executive of the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health

During a 30 year career in health and safety, she has specialised in safety consultancy; working with a number of Boards of Directors on implementing safety governance within large and diverse organisations. Her work on competence, education and training culminated in her appointment as Chief Executive of NEBOSH; the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health, in 2006.

Prior to joining NEBOSH, Teresa combined management of Norwich Union Risk Service’s (now Aviva) Consultancy operation with her post as a non-executive Director and Trustee of NEBOSH and was Senior Examiner for Diploma Part One from its inception in 1997. She is a Visiting Senior Teaching Fellow and member of the Examination Board for post graduate courses in Occupational Health at the University of Warwick’s Medical School. She is a member of RoSPA’s National Occupational Safety and Health Committee and also serves on the judging panel for RoSPA’s annual occupational safety and health awards. She is a member of IOSH Council.

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