A leading professional body has launched a firm attack on a recent high profile report into health and safety.

The report, ‘Health and Safety: reducing the burden,’ produced last month by the think tank Policy Exchange, is marred by a number of conceptual weaknesses, according to the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). These include:

Reference to ‘over compliance’, yet not recognising that stories reported in the media aren’t about complying with any legislative requirements, just defensive decisions based on ‘made up rules’
The report’s calls for proportionality, seemingly unaware that’s exactly what’s required by health and safety legislation right now
Challenging whether we should be trying to eliminate all risk, yet not realising that ‘health and safety’ certainly isn’t trying to do this; risk is part of life and needs to be sensibly managed
Calling for clarity on risk assessment, while failing to acknowledge all the work that’s been done in this area, particularly by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) with its sample ‘good enough’ risk assessments aimed at small businesses
Opposing additional duties being placed on directors, even though no new duties are being proposed, only making explicit what’s already implicit.

“Regrettably, this Policy Exchange report does nothing to clear up public confusion or address the root causes of risk and liability aversion,” said IOSH Policy & Technical Director Richard Jones.

“It fails to tackle the need to educate society, so that everyone recognises that risk is part of life, should be sensibly managed and requires personal responsibility,” he added.

“It fails to highlight the need to differentiate and demystify the plethora of non-health and safety demands on small and medium sized businesses, such as insurance requirements, grant application forms and employment law.

“And it also fails to identify the need to improve civil litigation, so that everyone knows what’s reasonable and important legal principles are appropriately tested,” he concluded.