As a health and safety professional with over 30 years experience, I am disturbed by how ill informed most of those who have posted about H&S since yesterday aopear to be.

Too many seem to be believing what they read in some of the more irresponsible media and are not investigating the facts any more than the researchers for the Policy Exhange publication "Health and Safety – Reducing the Burdeen" (March 2010) whose forward is by Lord Young who is charged with the review into requirements.

Th Policy Exchange document not only suggests that regulations to repeal and revoke legislation are a burden that is enforced by HSE and local authorities but in total lists 201 items of legislation most of which no longer exist. 

Most of those remaining in force will be of no consequence to anyone in another sector, or who does not do certain hazardous activities.

Contrary to some of the comments, effective management of H&S is not a costly burden  on business, quite the contrary. The total costs of accidents and work-related ill health are of the order of £40 billion per year – there's target for Coalition Government deficit reductions? See

In 2008/09 the estimated number of working days lost in the UK from accidents and work-related ill health 4.7 million and 24.6 million respectively. Similar ratios apply across most sectors whether industrial or otherwise.

Contrary to some of the comments, there's plenty of scope for improvement in lower risk environments. In the same reporting period the sectors "Public Administration" and "Business and Finance" lost an estimated 5.0 million working days i.e. over one sixth of the UK total.

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (passed with cross-party support) has now been in force for 35 years. It has stood the test of time with only ONE significant amendment to close a loophole in Section 6.

This reflects that the Act mirrors the common law duties of employers and others in the requirement NOT that risks should be eliminated but that they should be controlled "so far as reasonably practicable", wording whose authoratative House of Lords interpretation dates back to 1949, and requiring a balance to be drawn between reduced risk and the costs whether in time, money and/or effort.

The HL judgment would not prevent impact on or loss of amenity being considered as part of this balancing act, when deciding on what is reasonably practicable.

Those who think that risk assessments are necessarily lengthy documents should go to the HSE website and look at the sensible risk management and myths pages. The site is quite easy to navigate.

Risk assessments are implicitly required by the 1974 Act – how else do you demonstrate that you are doing what is reasonably practicable? However, what is explicitly required by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 is an assessment that is "suitable and sufficient" and a record of the "significant findings".

A lot of the examples of silly safety that have been regurgitated on these web pages are simply not true. For example, the National Trust do not have to assess every single tree in their land portfolio. This myth follows a tragic accident where not only did the HSE choose NOT to prosecute, but the subsequent civil action was NOT successful.


Why is this idea important?

To educate the public and others about the myths that are regularly aired about H&S requirements.

One Reply to “Time to inform people about what is and is NOT required by H&S legislation”

  1. Can you add a Blackberry template? This web page is tricky to read otherwise for those of us browsing with cell phones. Otherwise, in the event you can place a RSS link up, that would be good also. acfkffdgdaeefffd

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