In January this year prime minister David Cameron promised to kill off Britain’s health and safety culture for good, branding it a "monster" which was hindering the country’s economic recovery.
Cameron said: "I want 2012 to go down in history [as] … the year we banished a lot of this pointless time-wasting from the economy and British life once and for all."
His comments followed the publication last October of a report written by safety expert Professor Langran Lofstedt, commissioned by Cameron’s own employment minister, Chris Grayling. The report said Britain’s health & safety legislation was generally fit for purpose.
Grayling’s response last November to Lofstedt’s report said: "Good health and safety is vital to good business. Sensible and proportionate health and safety regulation can support economic growth by maintaining a healthy and productive workforce".
Cameron’s remarks were widely reported in the national media, but Grayling’s response was barely mentioned. It’s clear that health & safety remains a political punch bag; a soft target for politicians and journalists who regularly give the anti-health & safety bandwagon a push by flagging up distorted examples of bad practice and implying it is commonplace.
Conkergate in 2004 was a prime example. That Autumn a Cumbrian head teacher, fed up with having to fill in endless forms, got some of his pupils to don laboratory goggles and play conkers in the playground. He told the local media that goggles were a good way to protect children’s eyes from flying fragments of chestnut. The head teacher was joking to make a point, but the national media picked up on the story and seven years later politicians are still claiming that health & safety law has forced schools to ban playing conkers.
At Law At Work we practice sensible risk management, designed to identify, reduce, and where possible eliminate safety hazards. Our services are moulded round each client’s specific needs, and are delivered by Chartered IOSH members with extensive workplace experience. They come at a fixed, pre-agreed price. We work with organisations of all sizes and types, ranging from multi-site UK-wide companies, through to individual medical and dental practices, and everything in between.
Article published in CA Magazine - April 2012