Health and Safety Changes: What you need to know

12-Aug-2013 The government is changing health and safety regulation to simplify the process but companies still need to keep on top to avoid falling foul of the rules.

Site visit costs liability established
Government reviews making progress
Simplification is double-edged sword
Keeping up with the latest changes to health and safety regulations can be difficult and burdensome for any business.

But with site inspectors now focusing their attention on high-risk workplaces and industries, it’s important to the future of any construction company to keep abreast of the latest law changes and ensure you’re sticking to these regulations at all times.

In 2011, King’s Centre for Risk Management director Professor Ragnar Löfstedt reviewed health and safety law with the aim of reducing the burden of unnecessary regulation on businesses while keeping the workplace safe. This has been achieved to an extent.

Site visit costs liability established

Construction companies that breach health and safety rules are not only liable to pay fines but will now have to pick up the costs incurred by the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) site inspection visit.

Around £730,000 in fees were charged for site inspection visits in the first two months since the law was introduced in October 2012.

Surprise site visits, with the associated HSE costs as well as a perceived and growing compensation culture, means employers will over-implement health and safety requirements and insist on unnecessarily cautious work practices, which increases costs and reduces business growth.

To try to combat this, the law has been amended. Construction companies are no longer automatically responsible for workplace injuries that have occurred because health and safety regulations weren’t met. Employees now have to prove that the company was negligent and that they took reasonable care of themselves before they can pursue their case.

Government reviews making progress

One of the government’s aims is to review regulations so they’re presented in a simpler form with unnecessary rules removed, either because they’ve been overtaken by more up-to-date laws, or because they don’t deliver the intended benefits.

Thirteen regulations were revoked last month including the Construction (Head Protection) Regulations 1989. Instead, the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 1992 were amended to include the use of head protection on construction sites.

The Department of Work and Pensions is reviewing the Work at Height regulations and will be releasing updated guidance. Plus, a simpler accident reporting system is being developed to make reporting an incident much easier, quicker and more accurate. 

“With health and safety focusing on construction, companies are now more likely to face proactive inspections with the added risk of fines”

Meanwhile, the HSE will be considering proposals for changing the Construction Design and Management regulations and aims to publicly consult on the proposed revision in the late summer. 

Approved Codes of Practice are being reconsidered and amended to give clear practical examples of how to comply with the law, with 2014 health and safety regulations set out sector by sector to make it easier for companies to follow.

Simplification is double-edged sword

It’s hoped that simplifying regulation and codes of practice will make it easier for construction companies to know how to meet these regulations.

But the fall-out from this is more changes to the law to keep on top of and to comply with, which is a struggle for businesses today operating on tight budgets and limited resources.

But with health and safety focusing heavily on the construction sector, companies are now more likely to face proactive inspections with the added risk of HSE fees.

So to avoid a health and safety breach keep up to date with changes, familiarise yourself with the regulations, take ownership and manage the risks in your organisation and be prepared to challenge those that are asking you to go above and beyond what is required by the regulations.

Michelle Di Gioia is associate for the dispute resolution team at Gardner Leader

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