IOSH says amended Deregulation Bill health and safety clause remains 'unwise'

06 March 2015

An amended Government plan to deregulate areas of health and safety remains “unnecessary, unhelpful and unwise”, say the world’s largest professional body in occupational safety and health.

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Clause 1 of the Government’s Deregulation Bill will amend the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 to exempt certain self-employed from general health and safety duties.

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and a wide-range of other stakeholders have said the clause could lead to confusion, lower standards and increase the risk of injury and illness at work.

Peers have previously voted in favour of keeping Clause 1 as part of the Deregulation Bill, but in response to criticisms received, the Government tabled a proposed amendment to it during the Bill’s Third Reading in the House of Lords on Wednesday 4 March.

The amended clause was agreed by Peers and means that the regulations may now also seek to ensure that all those posing a risk to others are not exempted, along with those working in high hazard or high risk sector activities like agriculture and construction.

Government spokesman, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, sought to provide further assurance, highlighting a provision for further scrutiny and challenge before any regulations are brought in, and that the Health and Safety Executive will produce guidance targeted at self-employed persons and others to help avoid confusion.

Richard Jones, head of policy and public affairs at IOSH, said: “We are relieved the Government has recognised that relying solely on its ‘prescribed list’ approach is dangerous and unworkable and has now put on record its intention to ensure that all those who may pose a risk to others are not exempted.

“However, we remain strongly of the view that it would be far easier and clearer to leave the law as it currently stands and has stood for 40 years without a problem. We firmly believe this exemption proposal is unnecessary, unhelpful and unwise.”

During the latest debate in the House of Lords, Opposition spokesman Lord McKenzie of Luton raised concern that the Government’s amendment wasn’t strong enough.

He said: “On the face of it, the Government’s position represents a significant and welcome change. However, unless we think about locking it down more tightly in primary legislation, it may yet be wasted.”

Mr Jones said IOSH shared Lord McKenzie’s concerns, adding: “We think it’s very regrettable that the amendment doesn’t compel Ministers to ensure that those who may pose a risk to the health and safety of others retain a general duty.

“Given the situation we’re now in, it will be vital that good sense and a responsible approach prevail on this and extend to future administrations.”