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Tristan Hallam: The Lofstedt Report: First Blush

By Principal Lawyer, Occupiers and Public Liability

We are in the middle of a recession. There is talk of a second recession occurring which is going to take some years to come out of.  I have no doubt that the jobless total will increase significantly in 2012 and that those most affected as in any recession (who do you think were worst affected by the recession in the 1920s..) namely the majority of those working in low paid jobs are likely to be significantly affected over the course of the next few years.Lets make no bones about this. People will lose their houses and children will suffer. On the back of this, the Government commissioned the Lofstedt Report which has now been produced and which the Government highly commends in their response. This report was apparently commissioned - read the Foreword in the Government’s response to the report from, Chris Grayling MP, Minister for Employment namely that…… “sensible and proportionate health and safety regulation can support economic growth by maintaining a healthy and productive work force…the Government is committed to simplifying health and safety legislation to ease the burden on business and encourage growth”. All very commendable. Save that I wonder to what extent the commissioning of the report is all an utter waste of money.  The report appears to go hand-in-hand with the Prime Minister’s “red tape challenge initiative” launched in April of this year which is where the Government is looking for opportunities to reduce the stock of over 21,000 regulations which are currently on the “statute book”.  In simple terms, the Government must consider that there are far too many health and safety regulations, these are being interpreted in a very wide and unproductive sense, this in turn is fuelling the supposed ‘compensation culture’ which is affecting business growth which in turn is affecting the economy.All very commendable as I say above and if any of this was true, I would be largely supportive.  For those of us who are long in the tooth however, I can see that either this report will go absolutely nowhere, that the Government will attempt to win a few extra votes by banging on once again about the compensation culture in which case the report will have been an utter waste of time or alternatively, some regulations will be reduced or done away with entirely which could have the potential of causing serious death or injury to workers who would then not have the benefit of bringing a claim. What always surprises me about some people, particularly politicians, is the utter lack of empathy. We have had these regulations now for some time.  They have worked extremely well and when I refer to regulations I refer in particular to the Personal Injury Regulations on health and safety issues that I had spoken about previously. Any misinterpretation of these regulations is being exactly that. They are clear and have been interpreted by the Courts to ensure that these regulations are not expanded upon and allowed to grow well beyond what was intended by Europe and implemented by Parliament.If therefore the argument is that we are faced with far too many health and safety regulations (that employers need not worry the present Government will reduce his regulations so that they need not concern themselves unduly with the issue of health and safety), I am quite sure that personal injuries will occur and without wishing to sound too dramatic, families will ultimately lose out considerably if a loved one is maimed or killed without any redress.I look forward to the next stage of the compensation culture charade.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, fill in our short online claim form or email and one of our specialist personal injury team will review your compensation claim for free.