Government sees sense on health and safety

The UK Government has seen sense in calling for an end to the “epidemic of excuses” wrongly citing health and safety, the industry’s leading professional body said today (Wednesday 24 August).

Life raftEmployment Minister Chris Grayling MP defended the UK’s renowned system of health and safety legislation this morning – and he criticised those who try to hide their unpopular decisions behind it.

The move was welcomed by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), which has led a concerted campaign across the health and safety profession to highlight the damaging misinterpretation and mis-application of laws.

IOSH head of policy and public affairs Richard Jones said: “We’re delighted that the Government has listened and is joining our fight to tackle the health and safety myths that have sadly tarnished real health and safety.

“We think this statement by the Minister represents an important watershed in putting the record straight about real health and safety – highlighting that it’s only when it’s misinterpreted and misapplied that there are problems.

“Good health and safety is about saving lives, supporting business and enterprise and sustaining the economy. We think better education and government promotion of the sensible steps the law really requires should help debunk all this nonsense once and for all.

“Health and safety is about enabling things to happen and keeping people safe, it’s certainly not about pointless paperwork, barmy bans or spoiling sports days.”

IOSH has fought long and hard in recent months to promote the strengths of UK health and safety legislation and the benefits of its sensible application. In the past year, our senior representatives met PM David Cameron, Mr Grayling and Government advisers Lord Young and Professor Ragnar Lofstedt, and wrote to Business Secretary Vince Cable. That now looks like it is paying off.

Mr Grayling said: “We have seen an epidemic of excuses wrongly citing health and safety as a reason to prevent people from doing pretty harmless things with only very minor risks attached. This has to stop. The law does not require this to happen – people must be encouraged to use their common sense.

“Health and safety laws exist to provide important safeguards against people being seriously injured or made unwell at work and should not hamper everyday activities. These regulations are intended to save lives, not stop them.

“Middle managers in councils and companies should not try to hide unpopular decisions behind health and safety legislation. People must acknowledge these myths and continue to challenge them.”

Like IOSH, Ministers are concerned that misconceptions of health and safety law draw attention away from the real workplace risks that put people in genuine danger – and are determined to tackle the myths to ensure serious hazards are not trivialised.

In reality, the health and safety legislation is generally focused on the workplace, dealing with risks such as unguarded machinery, unsafe work at height and exposure to toxins such as asbestos.

A wide-ranging review of health and safety legislation, carried out by Prof Lofstedt and involving IOSH, will report to ministers in October with proposals for consolidating or simplifying existing statutes