September 14, 2012
Hundreds of thousands of businesses are to be exempted from health and safety inspections as the Government introduces new legislation to protect business from "compensation culture" claims.
At the same time, more than 3,000 regulations are to be scrapped or overhauled as part of an initiative to radically cut business red tape.
From April 2013, the Government is to introduce binding new rules on both the Health & Safety Executive and on local authorities that will exempt hundreds of thousands of businesses — including shops, offices, pubs and clubs — from "burdensome" health and safety inspections.
In future, businesses will only face health and safety inspections if they are operating in higher risk areas such as construction, or if they have an incident or a track record of poor performance. In addition, the Government will introduce legislation next month to ensure that businesses will only be held liable for civil damages in health and safety cases if they can be shown to have acted negligently.
Slashing red tape
The Government is also taking radical action on red tape by examining some 6,500 substantive regulations highlighted as part of its Red Tape Challenge. It is now committed to abolishing or substantially reducing at least 3,000 of these regulations and it will complete the identification of the regulations to be scrapped or overhauled by December 2013.
The Government says this initiative will save British companies millions of pounds and help spur economic growth across the UK. Business secretary Vince Cable said: "Businesses need to focus all their energies on creating jobs and growth, not being tied up in unnecessary red tape. We're determined to put common sense back into areas like health and safety, which will reduce costs and fear of burdensome inspections."
Business groups have welcomed the news. Alexander Ehmann, head of regulatory policy at the Institute of Directors (IoD) said: "Today's announcements are good news if they are the beginning, not the end of the deregulation story. Excessive regulation costs time and money, both of which businesses would rather spend on developing new products, hiring staff and building up British business both here and abroad."
A win for common sense
Dr Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said: "Reducing the burden of health and safety red tape will be welcome news to many businesses, and is a win for common sense. The BCC has long argued for a risk-based approach to health and safety, with a less onerous regime for companies with low-risk workplaces. These measures mean that law-abiding, low-risk businesses can live without the constant threat of time-consuming and costly inspections. It's a sensible change whose time has come."