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Tripping over the red tape

The British Safety Council conference highlighted the changes and challenges facing business. With major changes to health and safety regulation, how these will impact on businesses was core to much of the debate at the event. The conference was opened by BSC’s newly-appointed Chief Executive, Alex Botha.

The Changing Health and Safety Landscape conference was attended by more than 100 representatives from businesses across sectors. The conference focus was on the number of developments in health and safety in the workplace, and covered such areas as the extension of cost recovery and fee for intervention, which the Health and Safety Executive is currently consulting on. The focus of the conference was to assess the impact of Government reforms and wider legal developments on our health and safety management and performance and speakers included British Safety Council member organisations including International Safety Award distinction winners; Lynda Armstrong OBE, Chair of Trustees, British Safety Council, Dr Paul Almond, Lecturer in Law, University of Reading, Alexander Ehmann, Head of Parliamentary & Regulatory Affairs (to be confirmed), IoD and Steve Pointer, Head of Health and Safety Policy, Director, EEF, Dan Shears, Health and Safety Adviser, GMB union and Neal Stone, Director of Policy & Research, British Safety Council.

Alex Botha, the British Safety Council’s recently appointed Chief Executive opened the conference. He said the health and safety landscape was “changing dramatically” and businesses wanted to know how to respond to Government reviews, including the latest one being undertaken by Professor Ragnar Loufstedt and the Red Tape Challenge. Mr Botha said: “I have taken over as Chief Executive at a time when the landscape of health and safety is changing dramatically. There are many challenges arising from health and safety reform: the possible consequences of budget cuts on HSE and local authorities' enforcement capability; and how changes in the law are impacting on duty holders. He added: “I know that many of these issues are weighing heavily on the minds of our member organisations and I will continue to ensure that the British Safety Council effectively represents our members in our dialogue with government and the regulator.”

The conference gave HSE the opportunity to share, for the first time, its plans to extend its cost recovery proposals, which include fee for intervention. HSE programme director Gordon MacDonald, who is leading the current consultation, outlined the plans and how the scheme will work: “This will be happening so it’s a question of how we can work together to make it work,” he said. According to Gordon, the response so far has not been as controversial as he first imagined. “People seem to understand the principles behind it.” The fee for intervention scheme will be effective from April next year, with a dry run planned for October. Dan Shears, National health, safety and environmental research and policy officer for the GMB Union, voiced concerns about the impact of budget cuts on workers.

And Steve Pointer, Head of Health and Safety Policy at manufacturers' organisation EEF, said: “It's the practitioners that make the difference, not the inspectors.” Dr Paul Almond from the University of Reading’s school of law and Mark Tyler, a partner at law firm Shook, Hardy and Bacon, attempted to make sense of the recent developments in health and safety law, including the outcomes of the first corporate manslaughter case.

Laura Milsom, editor of Safety Management magazine, chaired a roundtable discussion on the challenges and changes facing duty holders. Chris Craggs from McFarlane Telfer, Ros Seal from the ODA, Paul Haxell from Bovis Homes and Zerxes Ginwalla from Searcy’s all contributed to the discussion, outlining their experiences and inviting questions and comments from the audience. Feedback from delegates who attended the conference was positive. Wendy Gains from Epping Forest District Council said: “It met my expectations and I enjoyed it. It’s always useful to network and hear other people’s views of current issues and how they’re overcoming challenges. Gordon MacDonald’s presentation was particularly interesting.”

David Jones from CDM 2007, said: “It’s very powerful to get like-minded people together so we can share experiences. We’re in difficult times and we need to work together, so today was a great opportunity to do that. I thought the morning session was superb and was about real issues.

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