15 October 2010
Health and Safety Reforms!
I prepared a blog recently on Health and Safety legislation. I have commented in a number of blogs over the last few weeks on how important health and safety legislation is. I even referred in a recent blog following the tremendous rescue of the Chilean miners, how health and safety legislation surely is an example of how society should exist, namely looking after our fellow man.I prepared these blogs in no small part with a view to the publication of a report by Lord Young who was asked to look into the health and safety laws as they stand with a view to reforming the laws in this area. There has been press over the last few years, no doubt in an attempt to sell copy, of how ridiculous the health and safety laws are in this country, preventing children from playing conkers, stopping schools taking children on school trips and local councils closing down playgrounds where they consider that the risk of being sued is too great.The health and safety laws that we have in this country are not difficult. They have been around for many years and the case law provided by the Courts is equally on the whole, reasonably straightforward to understand. There have been numerous articles written about the health and safety laws and the regulations as they stand at present and the case law which subsequently followed is therefore, at least in my mind, abundantly clear. They are designed to protect employees as well as other people in general.It can therefore be nothing short of madness for local authorities to suggest that the health and safety laws require them to stop children playing conkers in school or close down playgrounds. I would equally, and with respect, apply the same comment to the comments made by Lord Young when trying to justify his report and the suggestion that reforms should be carried out, referred I understand, to ‘restaurants banning toothpicks on safety grounds and contestants in a pancake race being told to walk not run’. If Lord Young really thinks that this is what the health and safety laws require and that the Courts have interpreted the laws and regulations as such, he is very much mistaken. To put it more strongly, he has simply got it wrong. In order to quote once again, and from someone who knows significantly more about the current laws and interpretations than Lord Young does, Mr Rob Strange, Chief Executive of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, welcoming the report’s recommendations did say however, that ‘the legislation is really perfectly sound, it is the interpretation of it by people who are covering their backs and sometimes using health and safety laws to not do something’. He went on to say that ‘these are just stupid decisions which give real health and safety a bad name’. I have taken these quotes from the BBC website of today. The quote from Rob Strange sums up the position entirely accurately. His comments cannot be improved upon. It does in my mind, speaks volumes that the report from Lord Young has not as it said it would, suggested that sweeping changes be carried out across the whole of health and safety laws and regulations.Tristan Hallam is a partner in Personal Injury in the London office of Russell Jones & Walker. If you or a member of your family has suffered an accident or injury call our expert personal injury solicitors on 0800 916 9046, or email firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our specialist personal injury team will review your compensation claim for free.