Ongoing reform is helping to reduce the burden on businesses across all sectors from health and safety law, but that is not to say companies should not be doing all they can to safeguard their staff and members of the public from harm.
Over the course of the last parliament, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has employed a ‘one in, two out’ rule to its guidelines and associated legislation as part of the government’s ongoing Red Tape Challenge, and this measure has helped to considerably streamline health and safety responsibilities for businesses of all sizes.
Work and pensions minister Lord Freud commented: “By making it easier for businesses to understand what they need to do on health and safety, they can protect their staff and concentrate on prospering rather than pointless box-ticking.”
As part of this year’s 40th anniversary celebrations for the HSE, the body has highlighted the considerable impact its actions and oversight have had on safety for all workers across the country, with around an 85 per cent reduction in the annual number of both serious and fatal accidents in UK workplaces having been witnessed over the last four decades.
Chair of HSE Judith Hackitt concluded: “We have a proud history of worker protection and we continue to work with business and others to ensure that regulations are appropriate and effective.
“As an organisation, we’ve completed a comprehensive review of our stock of legislation, delivered a substantial package of reforms and reduced the regulatory burden – all without compromising or diluting protection for workers.”
That said, health and safety across the UK continues to be a significant issue and is something all businesses should be taking steps to improve.
The latest figures published by the HSE show that during the last year, a total of 1.2 million British people suffered some form of work-related illness, while 133 were killed in work-related accidents.
In total, 28.2 million working days were lost due to illness or injury during the 12-month period, with HSE estimating this loss in productivity resulted in a cumulative cost to the national purse of up to £14.2 billion.
Businesses must therefore make sure they are operating in full accordance with all health and safety legislation that is pertinent to their field and operations, as failure to do so can not only result in serious and lasting illness and injury to vulnerable people, it could also hit companies where it hurts – in their pocket.
Company leaders must therefore have the effective safeguarding of staff and members of the public during all of their operations as a top priority or run the risk of HSE taking a significant bite out of their bottom line.
That is not to say health and safety compliance is simply an additional cost that businesses must endure though, as, for example, the HSE has recently updated its revised electrical product testing guidance, with these changes predicted to save UK companies a cumulative £30 million a year.