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UK Health & Safety Rules under continued attack

Written by Inam Ali on 10 June 2011

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It seems that the UK's health and safety rules are coming under continued attack by various bodies, despite the Government's review of the rules last year and the current reform being undertaken by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has recently reported that the health and safety regulations are stifling the UK's competitiveness against other countries. BCC's conclusion is based on around 6,000 of its members having told it that dealing with complex regulations and meddling inspectors were so costly that it was stopping them from employing more staff.

Met police chief Sir Paul Stephenson has also questioned whether safety legislation was appropriate for the emergency services. The head of the Metropolitan force has said that Police officers should be able to do their jobs without having to think about health and safety.

Concerns about the response of the Met's police officers was raised at the inquests into the deaths of those killed in the 7 July bombings.

In June 2010 the government promised to check the "growth of compensation culture" by reviewing health and safety laws. The review was lead by Lord Young, who told the BBC last year that he wanted advertisements for personal injury claims firms to be banned. In October 2010, Lord Young's report Common sense, Common saftety was published, and the Prime Minister backed the proposals, which included:

- A simplified procedure for personal injury claims and controls on the "volume and type" of advertising of such services

- A "common sense" approach to educational trips, with a single consent form covering all activities a child might undertake

- Consultants who carry out workplace safety assessments to be professionally qualified and registered on an online database

Lord Young also stated that Council officials who ban events on health and safety grounds should put their reasons in writing, and citizens should have the option of an appeal system if they want to challenge the decision.

The proposals were not welcomed by trade unions and personal injury lawyers who claimed that the so-called 'compensation culture' was a myth.

The HSE is responsible for enforcing health and safety at workplaces in the UK. Since April 2011, it has been undertaking the changes to the health and safety rules expected to be completed over the next 18 months.

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