Employment minister promises to ‘put common sense back at the heart of health and safety’

The government is launching a consultation which could see half of all health and safety laws abolished within three years.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said the government hoped to “put common sense back at the heart of health and safety”, and pledged to reduce regulations by a third, rising to a half over three years.

The announcement follows the publication of a report into safety regulations by Professor Ragnar E Löfstedt, who Grayling commissioned to examine the issue in March.

In his report, “Reclaiming health and safety for all: An independent review of health and safety legislation”, Prof Löfstedt recommends that health and safety law should not apply to the self-employed whose work poses no risk of harm to others.

He also suggests that employers should not be held responsible for damages when they have done everything possible to manage risks.

The government has confirmed it intends to accept the report’s recommendations. It also plans to strengthen the role of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in relation to local authorities.  

Grayling said: “From the beginning we said getting the regulation of health and safety right is important to everyone. By accepting the recommendations of Professor Löfstedt we are putting common sense back at the heart of health and safety.

“Our reforms will root out needless bureaucracy and be a significant boost to the million self-employed people who will be moved out of health and safety regulation altogether.

“We will also ensure our reforms put an emphasis on personal responsibility. It cannot be right that employers are responsible for damages when they have done all they can to manage the risk. Fundamentally we will ensure the health and safety system is fit for purpose through streamlining the maze of regulations and ensuring consistency across the board.”

Construction union Ucatt has claimed the loss of health and safety regulations will endanger construction workers, but the HSE has welcomed the government’s announcement. 

Judith Hackitt, chair of the HSE, said: “Professor Lofstedt’s insightful report will go a long way to refocusing health and safety in Great Britain on those things that matter – supporting those who want to do the right thing and reducing rates of work-related death, injury and ill health.

“We must have a system of health and safety which enables employers to make sensible and proportionate decisions about managing genuine workplace risks.

“Simplifying and streamlining the stock of regulations, focusing enforcement on higher risk businesses, clarifying requirements, and rebalancing the civil litigation system – these are all practical, positive steps.”