UK safety standards not gold-plated warns Prospect

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UK safety standards not gold-plated warns Prospect

The union's evidence to a review of health and safety legislation will say that the premise that health and safety law is a burden on business is flawed and that measures to earmark some internationally acclaimed UK standards as "unnecessarily enhanced" could jeopardise the health and lives of EU workers.

The Lofstedt review, due to report in the autumn, plans to examine around 200 statutory instruments regulated by the Health and Safety Executive and local authorities, and the associated Approved Codes of Practice which provide advice, including legal guidance, on compliance with health and safety law.

Prospect is concerned that because the Coalition Government redefined the term ‘gold-plating' of European safety law at the end of last year lives may be put at greater risk.

It fears that the review is more about the government's drive to save money than a professional assessment of what actions save lives, and its response will pay particular attention to the query regarding: "Whether the requirements of EU Directives are being unnecessarily enhanced (gold-plated) on translation into UK law."

The new definitions issued by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, listed, among other descriptions, "retaining pre-existing UK standards where they are higher than those required by the directive" as an example of gold-plating.

Sarah Page, Prospect's health and safety officer, said: "The suggestion of unnecessary gold-plating misses the point that the UK has historically led the way to promote continuous improvement across the EU. This will not only prevent further safeguards being put in place but potentially strip away the protection that is already there.

"Anecdotal evidence from members has already highlighted how previous drives to reduce UK legislation covering the agricultural industry in line with Europe resulted in an increase in workplace amputations. We fear it will be UK workers who suffer as a result of any diminution in the legislation."

The stated aim of the Lofstedt Review is to simplify the rules and ease the burdens on business. It aims to gather evidence from a range of key stakeholders to determine:

  •  the scope for consolidating, simplifying or abolishing regulations
  • whether the requirements of EU Directives are being unnecessarily enhanced (gold-plated) on translation into UK law
  • if lessons can be learned from comparison with health and safety regimes in other countries
  • whether there is a clear link between regulation and positive health and safety outcomes
  • if there is evidence of inappropriate litigation and compensation arising from health and safety legislation; and
  • whether changes to legislation are needed to clarify the legal position of employers in cases where employees act in an irresponsible manner.

If any members have examples of the impact of reduced regulation on workplace health or safety please email sarah.page@prospect.org.uk