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IIRSM comments on review of health and safety legislation

24 August 2011

Barry Holt, IIRSM Director of Policy and Research, notes that with membership of the EU, we have seen the introduction of a range of specific sets of regulations which has been seen as a return to the pre-health and safety at work act days.

This has, in turn, led to calls for another simplification and the review of legislation being carried out by Professor Löfstedt's committee.

Unfortunately, some of these calls have taken the view that UK standards are inevitably higher than elsewhere and that the review should focus on repealing those sets of regulations that originated in the EU. If this approach were to be adopted, we would risk losing some good legislation that effectively filled previous gaps. It is important that we don't let the review be hi-jacked by a xenophobic outlook.

IIRSM is concerned that the review should reinforce the need for a risk-based approach which emphasises protecting life as the key objective rather than moving back towards a compliance-based approach. The requirement of risk assessment is inherent in all recent legislation although this has led to an 'industry' where assessments for each activity are seen as ends in themselves.

Using the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations as the focus gives an opportunity for simplification.

IIRSM comments that the MHSW regulations already require a general risk assessment. This should be the basis for identifying those activities where specific assessments will be required.

Furthermore, they should also reinforce the requirement for actively managing health and safety by setting objectives which can then be monitored. IIRSM say that good support for this approach is already available through HS(G) 65, Successful Health and Safety Management’. By adopting this approach, businesses will not be required to do assessments that have not been identified as significant in the general assessment.

In addition, where the requirement for specific assessments will be reduced, regulations can be replaced by revised guidance which will help businesses manage those risks where they are relevant.

They go on to say that the MHSW regulations will need to be reviewed to ensure that the need to carry those specific assessments that have been identified, such as DSE, is carried out rigorously. Where guidance is to be provided, this should be issued in a style which is practically, rather and legally based. Organisations need to know 'how' they should respond and currently some of the ACoPs/Guidance Notes are not very user friendly.

In addition, according to the IIRSM, there needs to be a focus on leadership in revised legislation. Without active leadership from the top we will not achieve our objectives.

Without leadership skills for health and safety professionals, senior management may not be equipped to provide the overall health and safety motivation and support. Also, there should be a greater emphasis on health and safety training, but with the emphasis being moved towards a more practical approach.

IIRSM adds that in essence, what it would like to see coming out of the review is a framework that supports the risk management based approach and emphasises that health and safety is a business risk and encourages organisations to embed it in their strategic planning. At present it is still seen too often as sitting in a silo of its own.

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