Health and Safety: A Necessary Burden? the Government Wants to Remove the Burden on Business from Health and Safety Regulations, but Statistics Show Wales to Be above the UK Average for Workplace Injuries

Article excerpt

Prime minister David Cameron stirred a chord with many business people when he said in January that his New Year's resolution was to "kill off the health and safety culture for good".

Mr Cameron said then that health and safety legislation had become an "albatross around the neck of British businesses", costing them billions of pounds a year and leaving entrepreneurs in fear of speculative claims.

He announced plans to cap the amount which can be earned by lawyers from small-value personal injury claims against employers and to reduce overall costs in cases funded by 'no-win no-fee' deals.

And he also revealed that he had asked the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to bring forward to the end of 2012 its timetable for abolishing or consolidating up to half of all existing regulations.

Mr Cameron said the Government was "waging war" against the "excessive health and safety culture that has become an albatross around the neck of British businesses".

"This coalition has a clear new year's resolution: to kill off the health and safety culture for good," he said.

"I want 2012 to go down in history not just as Olympics year or Diamond Jubilee year, but the year we get a lot of this pointless time-wasting out of the British economy and British life once and for all."

Moves to tackle the compensation culture form part of a general assault on red tape following the 2010 Young Report and last year's Lofstedt Report into how to minimise the burden of regulation.

"I don't think there's any one single way you can cut back the health and safety monster," said Mr Cameron.

"You've got to look at the quantity of rules - and we're cutting them back. You've got to look at the way they're enforced - and we are making sure that is more reasonable.

"But the key about health and safety is not just the rules, the laws and regulations - it's also the culture of fear many businesses have about health and safety."

Mr Cameron's comments in January were branded "appalling and unhelpful" by Richard Jones, head of policy and public affairs at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health.

"Labelling workplace health and safety as a monster is appalling and unhelpful, as the reason our legislative system exists is to prevent death, injury or illness at work, protecting livelihoods in the process," said Mr Jones.

"The problem identified by the Government's own reviews is not the law, but rather, exaggerated fear of being sued, fed by aggressive marketing."

Lost in the rhetoric about the burden of health and safety regulation on business is the scale of the impact of injuries and poor health on companies.

Between April 2010 and March 2011, according to the HSE, an estimated 1. …