IOSH offers verdict on Coalition’s health & safety impact

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The IOSH, the Chartered body for health and safety professionals, has released some interesting conclusions about the potential impact of the coalition government on health and safety.

The IOSH drew the following conclusions:

How do they compare?

•At a glance: key policies

Neither party believes that there should be more health and safety legislation. The Conservatives are “concerned that the burden and impact of health and safety legislation has become too great over the last decade” and the Liberal Democrats argue that “there is not a need for more regulation of health and safety – rather we need to look at what can be done to lighten the regulatory burden.”

The Lib Dems suggest that “a commonsense approach” is the way forward, which would place “responsibilities on those who should be accountable” and penalise “those who seek to deny their responsibilities”.

The Conservatives argue similarly, although they focus on reducing the fear of penalties. They stress the need to establish “the right balance” so that “individuals acting in good faith who take reasonable actions will not be prosecuted” and they propose consolidating current legislation in order to define civil liability.
On the issue of enforcement, the parties take slightly differing views.

The Conservatives argue that there is a need to reduce the “burden of regulation” for “smaller, voluntary organisations” and “‘Good Samaritans’ [ . . . ] acting in good faith”, although they emphasise the need to safeguard “helpful regulations” to avoid potential abuses of power by employers.

The Liberal Democrats take a stronger line, arguing that there should be tougher fines for breaches in health and safety regulation: “At the moment many of the fines are much too low.” The Lib Dems would also like to see “a renewed emphasis on risk assessment and efficient targeting of resources”.

On the issue of the so-called ‘compensation culture’, there is broad agreement between the two parties that this culture exists and is damaging.

The Conservatives argue that there should be “practical changes in the law to [ . . . ] help bring an end to the culture of excessive litigation” and the Liberal Democrats state that they “support restrictions on the ambulance chasing compensation culture.”

Both parties are vague about how this would be achieved.

On the issue of a national accreditation scheme for health and safety consultants, the Liberal Democrats support IOSH’s proposals for an online register of health and safety consultants. The Conservatives decline to comment on this issue until Lord Young’s review has reported – but in his speech at IOSH 10, Lord Young suggested that IOSH should lobby for regulatory powers.

According to IOSH Chief Executive Rob Strange, Lord Young “confused the position of IOSH, as a Chartered professional body and charity having no statutory powers, with the law which, as it stands, makes no requirement on health and safety practitioners to be qualified.” However, Lord Young’s suggestion does seem to indicate that the Conservatives are not hostile to some form of regulation for the profession.

Finally, both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats agree that health and safety is an important aspect of employment training, but neither party gives any detail on how they would like to see this view implemented.

It would appear that there is broad agreement between the two parties on the overall aims of their health and safety policy, but whether they will agree on the detail of how to accomplish their objectives remains to be seen.

At a glance: key policies

Conservatives

• want individuals acting in good faith to be safe from prosecution
• want to “alleviate some of the regulations that currently hinder voluntary organisations””
• want to consolidate current legislation into a Civil Liabilities Act in order to define civil liability for negligence
• will ensure that the risk to the public is “prioritised above” the risk to police officers in dangerous situations
• want the law to be changed to end the “culture of excessive litigation”
• decline to comment on accreditation for the profession until Lord Young’s review is published
• agree that health and safety is an important part of employment training.

Liberal Democrats

• want a “commonsense approach” where responsibilities are fairly allocated and there are penalties for those who “seek to deny their responsibilities”
• want tougher fines for breaches in health and safety regulation
• want to see “a renewed emphasis on risk assessment” and “efficient targeting of resources”
• support restrictions on the “ambulance chasing compensation culture”
• support IOSH’s proposals for an online register of health and safety consultants
• agree that health and safety is an important aspect of employment training.



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