Lord Young’s long-promised review of Health and Safety in the UK has been published. If you’re interested, you can download your very own copy here.

It could be worse – the feared “bonfire of the legislation” fails to appear, replaced by a recommendation that

The current raft of health and safety regulations should be consolidated into a single set of accessible regulations

(Page 40)

I’m not actually sure what that means – the normal meaning of the word “accessible” makes no sense in that sentence – but I’m guessing that he wants to replace the current laws with new ones that say the same things in more easily understood ways.

Much of the report focusses on regulation of the “no win no fee” lawyers and the insurance industry to remove fear of the “compensaition culture”, and I’m all in favour of that, as long as a channel remains by which people who’ve been harmed by the genuine uncaring negligence of others can be given recompense. But whatever the Daily Mail might say, Health and Safety isn’t about fighting compensation claims, so lets move on.

Regulation of the Health and Safety profession is a key point:

Professionalise health and safety consultants with a qualification requirement that all consultants should be accredited to professional bodies…

Page 15

This is something the profession itself has been asking for for years, although we’re still squabbling among ourselves about how the accreditation will work: the trouble is, Health and Safety is such a wide subject that no one person is ever going to be universally competent, so you’ll end up with people accredited by the category of what they can cover: You could end up with an accreditation scheme so complex that potential employers can’t use it – which is exactly where we are now, with a quaification/experience framework that is completely meaningful and adequate – to the tiny minority of people who understand it. Meanwhile we have potential employers specifying “NEBOSH Qualified” and thinking that they’re going to get a Health and Safety version of a “Universal Soldier”, not realising that there are currently at least eight different NEBOSH qualifications, no single one of which demonstrates even a reasonable level of competence in any except the most basic areas.

I’d feel more confident that this was likely to happen under the present government if Michael Clapham’s Early Day Motion of 2007, asking for exactly this sort of regulation, had received the support of at least one Conservative MP.

He seems to have a hangup with risk assessment – for example his recommendation

Simplify the risk assessment procedure for low hazard workplaces…

Everywhere that Health and Safety law requires a risk assessment, it specifies that it should be Suitable and Sufficient and address significant hazards: so we already seem to be specifying that a low hazard workplace can have simple assessments (or if it’s really low hazard, no assessment at all). More worrying is his assertion that the law should

Exempt employers from risk assessments for employees working from home in a low hazard environment

So there you are, home-based workers – you can use your computer workstation until you’re crippled with RSI (which Young seems to consider on page 27 a low-impact hazard), and your employer can claim they didn’t know it was likely to happen.

Even more worryingly, he wants to

Simplify the process that schools and similar organisations undertake before taking children on trips


Introduce a single consent form that covers all activities a child may undertake during his or her time at a school

(both page 37)

Abolish the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority, and replace licensing with a Code of Practice

(page 36)

Google “Lyme Bay Tragedy” for an example of why that’s NOT a good idea.

So, the consent form that you sign before your 12-year-old goes on the coach trip to the Science Museum, will cover them for the rock climbing trip in four years time. You don’t yet know the teacher who’ll lead that trip, or how the trip’ll be planned…and the activity leader won’t have necessarily had any formal test of competence!

There are some worrying inaccuracies which, minor in themselves, raise concerns about the amount of care taken over the whole report:

…hence the example of the restaurant that banned toothpicks…

…which never happened, except in Daily Mail-land

…officials are giving poor advice to organisations and individuals, who are in turn prevented from running an event (for example a school fete)…

Make my day – give me a reliable reference for a school fete cancelled on safety grounds.

Currently where an employee is absent from work for three days following an accident or injury at work, a RIDDOR form is required

No. A RIDDOR is required if an employee is unfit for normal duties for three days following an accident or injury at work. So they could be at work on light duties, and the rules would still apply. His Lordship wants to increase the reporting time to seven days – which will decrease the number of reports, but isn’t likely to have any other effect.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations Approved Code of Practice is a legally enforceable guide for business

No it isn’t. An ACoP is by definition not legally enforceable of itself. It’s a statement that “if you do this you’ll definitely be compliant”, but it isn’t by itself enforceable .

So, it’s all a bit mediocre: not as bad as I feared or as good as I hoped. I predict that for most workplaces the impact will be minimal.

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