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Thousands of health & safety regs could be scrapped

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Hundreds of thousands of businesses to be exempted from health and safety inspections. New legislation to protect business from ‘compensation culture’ claims. Over 3,000 regulations to be scrapped or overhauled.

Shops, offices, pubs and clubs will no longer face burdensome health and safety inspections, and over 3,000 regulations will be scrapped or overhauled in a radical plan by the Government to curb red tape and boost British business growth. From April 2013, the Government intends to introduce binding new rules on both the Health & Safety Executive and on local authorities, that will exempt hundreds of thousands of businesses from burdensome, regular health & safety inspections. In future, businesses will only face health and safety inspections if they are operating in higher risk areas such as construction, or if they have an incident or a track record of poor performance.

In addition, the Government will introduce legislation next month to ensure that businesses will only be held liable for civil damages in health and safety cases if they can be shown to have acted negligently. This will end the current situation where businesses can automatically be liable for damages even if they were not actually negligent. The Government is also taking radical action on red tape in a further measure to boost growth and jobs in the economy. The Government is systematically examining some 6,500 substantive regulations that it inherited through the Red Tape Challenge process. The Government is now committing to abolish or substantially reduce at least 3,000 of these regulations and it will complete the identification of the regulations to be scrapped or overhauled by December 2013.

This commitment constitutes the most ambitious action ever proposed by a modern British government to slash the burden of regulation and set businesses free. It will save British companies millions of pounds in wasted time and money, and help spur economic growth and innovation across the UK. The Red Tape Challenge has already resulted in a series of red tape cuts including a radical package of employment tribunal reforms, expected to deliver £40 million of savings per year to employers. Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “In these tough times, businesses need to focus all their energies on creating jobs and growth, not being tied up in unnecessary red tape. I’ve listened to those concerns and we’re determined to put common sense back into areas like health and safety, which will reduce costs and fear of burdensome inspections.” Business Minister Michael Fallon said: “Today’s announcement injects fresh impetus into our drive to cut red tape. We have identified the red tape and now we are going to cut it. ‘ We’re getting out of the way by bringing common sense back to health and safety. We will now be holding departments’ feet to the fire to ensure all unnecessary red tape is cut.”

Alexander Ehmann, Head of Regulatory Policy at the Institute of Directors said: “The Government’s efforts on deregulation are welcome. Today’s announcements are good news if they are the beginning, not the end of the deregulation story. Excessive regulation costs time and money, both of which businesses would rather spend on developing new products, hiring staff and building up British business both here and abroad. The IoD encourage Michael Fallon to turn up the heat on the removal of red tape and help to get Britain’s economy moving.” On the inspection changes, Alexander Ehmann said: “Removing the headache of health and safety inspections for low-risk businesses is a step change. Scrapping unnecessary and unpredictable inspections is a valuable piece of deregulation and the Government are to be congratulated for taking such bold and decisive action on behalf of Britain’s businesses.”

Stephen Radley, Director of Policy at EEF said: “Burdensome health and safety rules are a drag on business. Cutting back on them is vital. We welcome the Government’s firm commitment to limit the liabilities of companies acting responsibly. It is now critical these reforms are delivered”. Dr Adam Marshall, Director of Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC): “Reducing the burden of health and safety red tape will be welcome news to many businesses, and is a win for common sense. The BCC has long argued for a risk-based approach to health and safety, with a less onerous regime for companies with low-risk workplaces. These measures mean that law-abiding, low-risk businesses can live without the constant threat of time-consuming and costly inspections. It’s a sensible change whose time has come.”

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