The prime minister David Cameron is determined to put an end to the “stranglehold” of bureaucracy around health and safety rules in the UK, which is holding back employees, but his attack has been criticised by a number of unions and workers’ bodies.
As well as taking a stronger stance on health and safety, Mr Cameron is preparing to combat what he sees as a compensation culture developing in the UK.
However, his aims have been dismissed by the Trades Union Congress general secretary Brendan Barber, who described the prime minister and his government as “out of touch” with real working life and the dangers posed in the workplace.
“Every government report on the UK’s supposed compensation culture has shown it to be a myth, and in fact claims have been declining over the past decade,” he added.
Mr Barber explained that despite the evidence stacking up that the UK is not going through a rapid expansion of personal injury claims and a compensation culture, Number 10 is determined to stop workers injured by their employers’ negligence being able to claim compensation.
He went on to note that workers in the UK would be “astonished” by Mr Cameron’s claims that there is excessive health and safety red tape that is limiting the growth of business and acting as an “albatross around the neck” of the economy.
Two million people in the UK currently have an illness or injury caused by their work, the majority of which are caused by health and safety breaches or negligence on the part of their employer.
The expert also noted that businesses in the UK are not being as hamstrung by risk assessment forms as many people believe.
“The vast majority of employers never carry out any kind of written risk assessments, and for those that do, there is easy-to-understand advice available from the Health and Safety Executive on how to do them,” Mr Barber added.
In his speech Mr Cameron said that ending the burden of overzealous health and safety regulations is crucial to smaller businesses in the UK.
He added that he hoped 2012 would go down in history not just for the Olympics or Diamond Jubilee, but for getting a lot of “pointless time-wasting” out of British life and therefore the economy once and for all.
A spokesman from Families Against Corporate Killers described the prime minister’s speech as “extraordinary”, noting that it was completely fact-free and simply ignored the findings of the recent Lofstedt Review.
It looks like the debate over the compensation culture will rage on for a long time, but some safety organisations have taken it upon themselves to try to boost health and safety in the UKand curb the growth of accidents at work.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has launched a new BTEC-accredited health and safety course, which it hopes will encourage more businesses to adopt the recognised qualification.
Its new Manual Handling Trainers Course is the first of its kind in the UK and gives delegates a levelled qualification, which it hopes will make the course more appealing to employers and employees alike.
Frances Richardson, RoSPA’s director of operations, said: “It is comparable with other qualifications and gives the employer a fuller idea of the skill and professional levels obtained, which are relevant to areas other than health and safety.”
She went on to reveal that musculoskeletal disorders are the most commonly reported type of work-related ill health and the course has been designed to give attendees training to avoid back injuries through employing correct handling techniques.
“Preventing these injuries will bring benefits to organisations and reduce costs. Their designated manual handling trainer will then be able to pass their skills on to their colleagues and help reduce workplace injuries,” the expert added.
Posted by Trevor Baker
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