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Health and Safety laws – radical amendments needed

Comment 15th March 2013

Safety is a state of mind, not a set of box-ticking procedures.  The various existing ‘health and safety’ laws need to be radically amended.  Currently they are concerned primarily with establishing ‘paper trails’ so that blame can be established rather than safety achieved.  They have become a paradise for lawyers, officious bureaucrats, egregious insurance companies, and the organizers of all manner of fatuous (and expensive) ‘training courses’.  They have also actively encouraged the growth of the pernicious ‘compensation culture’.   

Two suggestions: 

‘Duty of care’ – wherever this phrase occurs it should be qualified in such a way as to ensure that it cannot be taken as reducing the obligation of individuals to be responsible for themselves. 

‘Risk assessments’ – Even the HSE’s advice on these is flawed, being based on the subjective assessment of what *might* happen.  It is a matter of basic physics that almost anything *might* happen, a proper risk assessment should properly quantify the risk for comparison with other risks so that a rational judgement can be made.  e.g. a council banned window boxes because they *might* fall off and injure people.  The correct procedure would have been to determine nationally the number of window boxes above say 6ft, how many have fallen off, and how many have seriously injured or killed someone.  Without these data, a *rational* risk assessment *cannot* be made and any State/Local Government intervention should have no statutory force, but be confined to advice.

An objective assessment of the legislation might be revealing – e.g. how many were seriously injured/killed in particular industries before and after the legislation, (with due allowances for routine improvements in machinery, procedures etc,) and how many people have suffered ill-health or death due to over-weaning application of the legislation – failed businesses, needless loss of efficiency, stress-related illness etc.

Why does this matter?

Health and safety rules as presently constituted are stifling initiative, burdening businesses and feeding the compensation culture

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