H&S Regulation Cuts – a progress report.


The ground breaking report by Professor Löftstedt - who concluded that some 35% of Health and Safety Regulations could be removed via a process of consolidation and simplification – has had far-reaching results. Unusually for such a report, it has been more than embraced by Government: they have actually used it as a stepping-stone to even more demanding targets.

True, the headline-grabbing Budget announcement (that 84% of laws would be killed off in a bonfire of regulations) has in practice proved to be an intended 50% level of repeals, but that is still a huge proportion of the labyrinth that makes up the UK health & safety legislative scene.

And looking at the small print in the budget announcement in March, it actually pledged to “scrap or remove” 84% of health and safety regulations. It seems that there are other ways to ‘remove’ unwanted instructions than going through the process of actually withdrawing them from statute books. Old laws can, where they have been effectively made redundant by subsequent legislation, simply be declared as replaced by, or amalgamated with, the new rules.

The overall commitment is still intact: which will be welcome news for many construction safety professionals who have to do battle with the regulations daily.

The HSE are actually being coy about how many will formally be scrapped, but we have recently commented on their first steps to consult on repealing or removing some regulations so we must assume that they, doubtless under some pressure from the Ministries, are committed to the new direction.

Their official comment was: “There will be work to consolidate sectoral regulations and work to improve ease of use for duty holders with revised guidance and a review of ACoPs. Overall we still expect this work to affect 84% of the regulations in scope with the consolidation and removal of redundant measures reducing the total by around half.”

But is this the endgame? Seemingly not. The employment minister (who judging by average reshuffle frequencies may not be in employment for more than 2 years or so) dropped a potential bombshell on 18th April when he addressed the Policy Exchange Labour Market 2020 Conference. He told them “within two years we aim to have rewritten all of our hundreds of health and safety regulations and guidelines.” All? And will there still be an HSE? Watch this space…

It is to be hoped that the grindingly slow process of consulting and announcing changes in minute detail does not derail the process through sheer inertia, in a classic Sir Humphrey tactic as outlined in Yes Minister.

Whatever the end result, there will in the foreseeable future still be a maze of legislation to fight through: and no-one can expect to be well-informed enough to negotiate it alone. Experienced, professional health and safety consultants such as ourselves, will help you to do the right thing: and to avoid falling foul of whatever regulations will apply in the years to come.