British Safety Council calls for public debate on future of health and safety regulation
CONCERNS are growing on the future for health and safety regulation following news of a leaked Health and Safety Executive letter that purportedly reveals how budget cuts will impact on the HSE’s capability to carry out its statutory enforcement responsibilities.
Earlier this year the British Safety Council drew attention to the likely impact of budget cuts of around 35% between 2011 and 2015 on the ability of the HSE to continue to carry out its present level of inspection visits to employers’ premises.
The Council says that, in terms of resources, it is clear the HSE either has to cut back on a range of activities or extend cost recovery to areas of work not currently charged, or both.
British Safety Council chief executive Julie Nerney is calling for a public discussion about how best to deal with the reality of fewer resources for public bodies involved in health and safety regulation.
She said: ‘The British Safety Council recognizes there are strong arguments from some interest groups that…it is only right resources devoted to regulation and enforcement should be looked at critically and even reduced.’
However, she said other groups, including the British Safety Council, were concerned about the consequences for the HSE’s capability and for workers’ health and safety following any reduction in proactive inspections, which have proven to be a very effective tool in encouraging compliance and preventing harm.
‘We may be only a few weeks away from the Government’s announcement of how it plans to move ahead with the next round of health and safety reform. It is essential that all stakeholders, including employers, trade associations, trade unions and health and safety bodies…have the opportunity to properly engage with the Government and the regulatory bodies on the role and contribution of enforcement,’ she said.
‘We also need to be particularly engaged on the implications of cutbacks to enforcement and to explore, as necessary, how the inevitable enforcement deficit can be effectively tackled.’
According to Ms Nerney, the most important message the British Safety Council will be looking for from government is that safe and healthy workplaces remain a top priority; and that the role of the HSE in helping to deliver that goal is one it will ensure by working with a wide range of stakeholders on the ground.’