Labour Research November 2012

Health & Safety Matters

Coalition rips up safety

The government is to press ahead with its long-threatened dismantling of health and safety regulation.

From April 2013, there will no longer be pro-active health and safety inspections other than in “high-risk” sectors. High risk sectors include: mining, construction, explosives, gas fitting and installation, agricultural activities, offshore activities, chemical industries and nuclear installations, or where a business has a poor health and safety record.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT rail, maritime and transport union, said that these proposals will give businesses “the green light to cut corners”.

The government is also consulting about a new statutory Code under which the HSE will direct all local authority inspections. This is designed to prevent local authorities carrying out inspections according to their own criteria.

Additionally, subject to Parliamentary approval — due to be tabled in this month — companies are more likely to escape having to pay civil damages as a result of breaching health and safety rules.

Previously, organisations had to pay civil damages even where they could not be shown to have been at fault (known as strict liability). It is anticipated that soon organisations will only have to pay civil damages if it can be shown that the breach of the health and safety rules was down to their negligence.

John McClean national health and safety officer for the GMB general union, said: “The burdens will now fall on individuals and society in suffering and cost.”