Heath and Safety fact and fiction

23 March 2011

ASLEF’s Health and Safety advisor Dave Bennett has studied Employment minister Chris Grayling’s latest announcement on Health and Safety in the workplace and attempts to separate fact from fiction.

Grayling;

‘We will clamp down on the rogue Health and Safety advisers who cost industry so much money by providing advice which often bears little relation to the actual requirements of legislation’

Reality.

There is no evidence that inappropriate advice is a problem. The main issue is that far too many small companies do not seek any advice on HS, not that they are being given bad advice.

‘We will shift the focus of Health and Safety activity away from businesses that do not do the right thing, and instead concentrate efforts on higher risk areas and on dealing with serious breaches of Health and Safety regulation.

In reality the main HS issues is slips, trips and falls, which can occur in so-called low risk environments.

‘We will seek to clarify and simplify health and safety legislation, and in doing so ease the burden on business… We will also shift the cost burden of health and safety away from the taxpayer, and instead make those organizations that fail to meet their obligations pay to put things right’.

In reality there is nothing wrong with making companies which break the law pay up. But without regular inspections we will not prevent accidents which can result in injury or death, only fine the guilty parties after the event. This is a reactive step. To be effective HS legislation must be proactive.

The real cost of HS failures does not fall on the employer but on the individual and the state.

‘We are today launching new ‘Health and Safety Made Simple’ guidance’.

In reality the online HSE risk assessments are short on detail and not fit for purpose.

‘We are also launching an immediate review of health and safety regulation overseen by an Independent Advisory Panel chaired by Professor Ragnar Lõfstedt, Director of the King’s Centre for Risk Management at King’s College, London. The review will be asked to make recommendations by Autumn 2011 for simplifying the current rules.’

The reality is that the Health and Safety at Work etc Act, 1974, consolidated many different pieces of legislation that existed previously and that as a result we now have fewer pieces of legislation than we had pre-1974.

Some legislation can only be repealed in direct defiance of the EU. It is extremely unlikely this will happen. Any idea that it could is simply Tory posturing. Pandering to ‘Little Englanders’ and right-wing journalists

‘We will also ask the review to consider whether changes to legislation are needed to clarify the position of employers in cases where employees act in a grossly irresponsible manner’.

If introduced, any such legislation will be used by employers to find fault with the employee. Rather than accepting responsibility for providing inadequate training, poor management decisions will be laid at the feet of the employee.

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