A final update report on progress with implementing Professor Löfstedt’s recommendations for UK’s health and safety legislation was issued by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on 24 March 2015. In essence, Professor Löfstedt found in 2011 that the framework for health and safety law was broadly fit for purpose, but recommended simplifying its structure and the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) guidance to help business comply more easily.
As a result the HSE has reduced the overall stock of Health and Safety legislation by 50%, so that there is now a simpler, modern set of legislation. HSE has also undertaken an extensive guidance review to help businesses find straightforward help on what they need to do. It has been reported that business response to these reforms has been strongly positive and it is said that these goals have been achieved without reducing health and safety protection for workers.
In order to ensure that low risk businesses, which take a responsible attitude to health and safety, are not subject to unnecessary inspections, the Government has shifted the focus of health and safety regulators to concentrate their efforts on higher risk industries. As a result, the HSE has developed sector strategies that better target proactive inspections, but that continue to take robust action where there has been a breach of health and safety legislation. Local Authority inspectors now follow HSE’s National Local Authority Enforcement Code, which sets out the risk-based approach to targeting their occupational health and safety interventions. This provides a greater level of confidence that there will be greater consistency across the country and those lower risk businesses taking a sensible approach to health and safety can get on with their business, without the disruption of unnecessary tick-box inspections.
The Deregulation Act 2015 was the final piece of the jigsaw. It provides the next Government with the means to exempt from health and safety law some 1.8 million self-employed jobs in occupations that present no potential risk to others.
The reforms also sought to tackle the compensation culture. Changes introduced across Government aimed at curtailing the promotional activities of claims management companies. The Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Act 2015 is also mentioned in this final update report, which states that the Act sends a clear message to reassure people acting heroically, for the benefit of others, or in a predominantly responsible way (both in a voluntary capacity and in the course of employment or some other activity) that they can do so with confidence that, in the unlikely event that something goes wrong and they are sued, the court will take account of the context of their actions.
The report makes it clear that the Coalition believes that reform is not about curtailing all claims. Where a person suffers a genuine injury at work or in a public place due to the negligence of a business the process for pursuing low value injury claims is now simpler (following the introduction of the electronic claims portal and the associated Pre-Action Protocols). Overall, the DWP report states that the various measures have introduced significant benefits for claimants, business and local authorities and asserts that the UK’s health and safety regulation is now sensible and proportionate.
About the Author
Alistair Kinley is BLM’s Director of Policy & Government Affairs.
Alistair is responsible for BLM’s engagement with government departments and regulators on policy and public affairs issues and consultations affecting the firm and its customers. He coordinated BLM’s market-facing activities in connection with the Insurance Act 2015 and the consultations which preceded its publication and introduction in Parliament.
He is a member of the Civil Justice Council (CJC), a regular speaker and experienced commentator on legal and procedural reforms and was a contributing editor to the Law Society’s Litigation Funding Handbook (September 2014).