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Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974

Comment 2nd July 2010

Extent of repeal

Sections of the secondary legislations enacted over the past decade.

Why does this matter?

There may well be Health and Safety regulations which are disproportionate. There is, also, however, a large problem with insufficiently trained officials taking an over-cautious view and blaming regulations for their lack of research. Before removing regulations, action should be taken to determine whether the fault lies with the regulations or with poor implementation. There should be a requirement that any change made in order to satisfy such regulations should quote the regulation involved and allow for an appeal.

It may be sensible to re-examine the scope of the Act, however. Its framers were, I think, more concerned with industrial accidents and safety on construction sites than they were with the relatively benign office environments in which many of us work, and its extension and intrusion into other areas is the main source of problems. For instance, there are now training courses for using ladders. Far too often this legislation is now used as a basis for compensation claims and there is too little personal responsibility. Whether that is a problem that needs addressing in the legislation or not is another question, and whether that should be done as part of this Bill is also a good question, but it should be considered. Repeal the sections of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992 and 1999 which refer to persons other than employees or those working in or on the premises.

H&S rules should no longer be able to 'trump' other laws (e.g. laying flat headstones in churchyards), and thus avoid complex and unsatisfactory court cases. Sign of the problem is that H&S Executive has a habit of redrafting guidance notes to 'clarify' legislation. It indicates paying less heed to highly unlikely events, although this does not appear to have been heeded by courts or by council officers.

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