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Health and safety laws to be cut by half

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Government plans to slash health and safety red tape will mean substantial savings for small firms, business groups have said.

More than half of around 200 existing health and safety regulations will be abolished or amended over the next three years, the Government said, following the publication of the independent Lofstedt Review which recommended getting rid of unnecessary regulation.

Key proposals accepted by Whitehall include the abolition of health and safety laws for the self-employed whose work poses no threat to others, the setting up of a new Challenge Panel to enable businesses to dispute health and safety rulings made against them and the appointing of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to oversee inspections rather than local councils.

Some laws will also be simplified such as the reporting of workplace accidents while rules on annual testing of electrical appliances such as kettles and microwaves – deemed often “unnecessary” – are to be relaxed.

The Forum of Private Business (FPB) welcomed the announcement, calling it “the beginning of the end for pointless red tape.”

“This should save employers money and make for a fairer, fit-for-purpose system with an emphasis on personal responsibility,” said FPB senior policy adviser Alex Jackson, who added that many of the recommendations would make a “tangible difference to the shop floor”.

Proposals to limit employers’ liability for damages where they have sensibly managed risk were particularly welcome, he said, as “civil action against businesses is a huge issue for our members and many over-compensate where health and safety is concerned.”

The Institute of Directors (IoD) also praised the announcement, saying many businesses “feared the huge burden of red tape.”

“So much regulation is unnecessary and expensive,” said an IoD spokesman. “We’ve heard of IoD members paying consultants for advice on office furniture to comply with health and safety rules, while others have had train staff in hazardous chemicals in case they came into contact with toilet cleaner.”

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

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