Tangled up in red tape?

1 Jul

If you’ve ever been driven mad by the requirements of a set of health and safety regulations, feel the legal duties need amending or scrapping, or even simply wish to defend the UK’s existing legal framework for health and safety from attack, now is your chance, as the government’s much trumpeted Red Tape Challenge is focusing specifically on health and safety legislation for the next three weeks.

The Red Tape Challenge was launched in April by David Cameron, and aims to offer everyone – from members of the public and employees to business owners and community groups – the chance to have their say on regulations that affect their everyday lives. Specifically, the website seeks views on the 21,000 regulations currently in force in the UK in areas ranging from employment law to pensions, equalities to environmental protection, and the government is urging those with an interest in any of these regulatory issues to speak up and make their views known.

In the government’s own words: “We want to hear from everyone, whether you think a regulation is well designed and provides vital protections, or if you think a regulation in badly planned, badly implemented or simply a bad idea.” The aim, ministers add, is to “give a real boost to growth and personal freedoms” by scrapping some of the 21,000 regulations that are “getting in the way” of the public, businesses and community organisations.

Health and safety regulation is one of six “cross-cutting” themes on the Red Tape Challenge website and the public will be able to provide comments on health and safety laws throughout the whole of the Red Tape Challenge campaign, which is due to run for several months. However, from 30 June – 21 July there will be a special focus on health and safety laws to further encourage people to air their thoughts.

The website allows people to comment on all existing health and safety regulations – around 200 in total – and to make the process easier, these have been grouped into four different categories. These are: general health and safety; major hazard industries; higher risk workplaces; and dealing with hazardous chemicals and materials. Hundreds of comments have already been received on health and safety law, many of which can be read on the website.

Importantly, the government has promised to listen and act on what people say – indeed, every four months government departments have to comment on the six “cross-cutting” themes to ensure the review’s momentum is maintained – so this is an important opportunity for those interested in health and safety regulation to get their opinions across.

The health and safety aspects of the Red Tape Challenge are also closely linked with the independent review of health and safety legislation currently being carried out by Professor Ragnar Löfstedt as part of the government’s recently announced package of changes to Britain’s health and safety system. Like the Red Tape Challenge, the Löfstedt review seeks views on ways of combining, simplifying and reducing health and safety regulations, and responses to the health and safety aspects of the Red Tape Challenge will be fed to the professor for his consideration. In fact, Professor Löfstedt has been appointed as the ‘sector champion’ for health and safety throughout the Red Tape Challenge, acting as an intermediary between stakeholders in this area and the government and helping to direct the web-based debates and discussions.

British Safety Council members have already been asked to comment on the Löfstedt health and safety legislation review to help formulate our official response to the professor’s call for evidence, but the Red Tape Challenge website provides another forum for interested parties to make their voices heard in this area.

So, if you feel like getting something off your chest about health and safety law, take a look at the Red Tape Challenge website – your comments could make all the difference.

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