Friday, October 15, 2010

Common Sense Common Safety

Report by Lord Young of Graffham to the Prime Minister published 15 October 2010 and available from the Number 10 website

Lord Young was given the job of reviewing the operation of health and safety laws and the growth of the compensation culture. The main concern being that the standing of health and safety has in the eyes of the public has dramatically reduced.

According to the report, over 800,000 compensation claims were made in the UK during 2009. Some of these were for trivial matters, and the rise of claims management companies seems to have been a driving factor. The problem is that companies, voluntary organisations, schools, emergency services and others are becoming overly risk-adverse and bureaucratic because of their fear of compensation.

There are quite a number of recommendations, but taken as a whole they cover:

* Reviewing the way that compensation claims can be made, including the role of companies that assist in these claims, to get society to move away from a compensation culture;
* Making sure well-intentioned volunteers (i.e. good Samaritans) are not held liable for consequences that may arise;
* Simplify compliance processes for low-hazard workplaces, and provide more help so that organisations can easily check and record their compliance;
* Implement an accreditation scheme for health and safety consultants with the aim of improving professionalism and raising standards;
* Encouraging insurance companies to take a more reasonable approach to minimise the burden on their customers;
* Simplifying processes for schools;
* Provide a means for citizens to challenge local authorities if they want to ban events on health and safety grounds.

The report suggests some aspects of health and safety legislation should be reviewed, but does not appear to advocate significant change. It is the application that is of most concern.

One suggestion that I think is particularly power is the suggestion to "Shift from a system of risk assessment to a system of risk–benefit assessment." Although I am disappointed that this is only directed towards Education establishments, and not for every organisation. I think this fundamental shift could significantly improve the way risks are managed in practice.

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