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Will health and safety deregulation encourage cowboys?

Earlier this year, the government introduced the Deregulation Bill, which is now making its way through Parliament. The bill was introduced following an earlier review into health and safety laws and their impact by Professor Löfstedt, in 2011.
The Deregulation Bill is meant to give small businesses some freedom from the red tape and burden of existing health and safety legislation. However, criticism has come from trade unions, and safety campaigners such as the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), who believe that the bill will not achieve what it set out to do, with some critics seeing it as a ‘recipe for disaster and a licence for cowboys’.
While the government wants to reduce the bureaucratic burden on small businesses, they also have to be cognisant of the safety risks if deregulation does happen. The bill contains an amendment to Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 that will read:
“It shall be the duty of every self-employed person who conducts an undertaking of a prescribed description to conduct the undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that he and other persons (not being his employees) who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”
Many organisations oppose these new rules argue that they are complicated and that it will be difficult for self-employed people to understand exactly what the changes mean for them: for example: whether their particular sector will be included on the deregulation list or will be one listed as exempt from any deregulation due to a higher risk, such as asbestos, construction, gas fitting and waste management.
The higher-risk sector which will be exempt from deregulation have yet to be confirmed, and there will be a consultation later on this year before drawing up this list. But it remains to be seen what the impact of deregulation will be on the number of work place accidents in the UK.
Diane Parker, Head of Personal Injury at Atherton Godfrey Solicitors, said: ‘There is likely to be significant confusion around exemptions. The prescribed list excludes dangerous occupations such as vehicle repair and makes no reference to trades people, such as plumbers or electricians, working in someone’s home.’

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