In defence of Health and Safety

Having attended the Health & Safety Reform conference last week (18th April), it left me with the distinct impression that we really need to be celebrating what has been achieved on this agenda in the last 30 years, rather than constantly looking for an excuse to use the much over used phrase ‘it’s health and safety gone mad.’

Yes, we all want to see bureaucracy reduced and certainly some of the findings of the Löfstedt Report ‘Reclaiming Health and Safety for All’ went some way to relieving the burden on SMEs with little or no material health and safety risks. That’s a great idea and such reductions in needless paperwork should be championed. However, the UK’s health and safety performance over the last 30 years should also be championed. The UK leads the way in Europe on H&S performance and safety in the workplace and since the implementation of the Health and Safety at work Act 1974 and subsequent legislation, we have all become increasingly safe in our workplaces. Currently the trend seems to be to undervalue that; an approach which could easily lead to complacency and the reversal of the excellent progress we have made as a country.

In fact the performance of our H&S sector sets me thinking that in the face of funding shortfalls of the HSE and others, should we not be looking to raise revenue by exporting our expertise more widely, rather than introducing a ‘fee for intervention’ charging system which may discourage the openness and transparency that has helped UK Plc follow a continuous improvement curve over many years?