UK: Consultation Launched On Abolition Of Health And Safety Rules

Last Updated: 7 December 2011
Article by Jan Burgess and Thomas Herd

A consultation on the abolition of more than half of the UK's health and safety rules is to be launched by the Government following an independent review. 

The Government-commissioned review, led by Professor Lofstedt of King's College London, looked at the scope for "reducing the burden of health and safety regulation on business while maintaining the progress made in improving health and safety outcomes". 

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Law Now – Consultation launched on abolition of Health and Safety rules
A consultation on the abolition of more than half of the UK's health and safety rules is to be launched by the Government following an independent review.

The Government-commissioned review, led by Professor Lofstedt of King's College London, looked at the scope for "reducing the burden of health and safety regulation on business while maintaining the progress made in improving health and safety outcomes".

The Lofstedt review has concluded that the problems lie more with the interpretation and application of regulations rather than their content, with this leading to several instances where regulations aimed at covering real risks are being used to cover trivial ones. Professor Lofstedt makes several recommendations aimed at streamlining health and safety regulation and cutting down on, what is seen as, needless bureaucracy.

One of the key recommendations made is for an exemption from health and safety law to be introduced for self-employed people whose work poses no risk of harm to others. The Lofstedt review suggests that this exemption could benefit up to a million people. The review also recommends enacting legislation giving the HSE responsibility to direct the near 400 local authorities who currently deal with monitoring low-risk environments in a move to improve consistency in the application of health and safety regulation.

The most important change however may come from the Government's approach to streamline and simplify health and safety regulation. Upon the publication of the review, the Government have said they will launch a consultation into the abolition of more than half of the 200 or so regulations currently in place over the next three years – with the first regulations being removed within the next few months. Specific regulations which the review recommends are revoked include the Notification of Tower Cranes Regulations 2010 and the Construction (Head Protection) Regulations 1989. Furthermore Professor Lofstedt recommends that several regulations are amended, clarified or reviewed, including the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR); the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

One thing the report does note is that the ability to reduce regulation in the UK will be heavily limited by the duty to comply with European law. What is therefore suggested by Professor Lofstedt is that the UK Government engages closely with the European Commission going forward to try and ensure that the correct approach is taken.

The reaction from the business world has been largely positive with Dr Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce saying businesses would welcome the conclusions aimed at reducing some of the unnecessary burdens placed on them.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) also reacted positively, with chief executive Tom Mullarkey approving of the findings of Professor Lofstedt. He said the RoSPA were glad that the report showed that the UK system was largely fit for purpose, although they agreed that there was always scope for improvement and a reduction in repetitive and unnecessary regulation. The RoSPA were also pleased with the recommendation that the HSE control local authority enforcement of certain regulations, although they warned caution on the implementation of an exemption from health and safety law for the self-employed.

Further positive reaction came for Sir Merrick Cockell, chairman of the Local Government Association, who said the organisation was looking forward to working more closely with the HSE going forward, with a more consistent approach being developed.

The reaction has not all been positive however with Union bosses slamming the proposals. The TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber has said the Government should forget about tinkering with regulations and focus on taking steps to improve Britain's health and safety record. George Guy, from the building worker's union Ucatt, was also sceptical, saying that the focus was on reducing burdens on businesses rather than on improving the safety of workers.

The Institution of Occupation Safety and Health had a lukewarm reaction to the news saying that although they were in favour of a more simplistic approach to regulation, they could not "see the scope for reducing the number by half without potentially putting workers and the public under increased risk of injury or ill health".

The full text of Professor Loftstedt's review can be found at

This article was written for Law-Now, CMS Cameron McKenna's free online information service. To register for Law-Now, please go to

Law-Now information is for general purposes and guidance only. The information and opinions expressed in all Law-Now articles are not necessarily comprehensive and do not purport to give professional or legal advice. All Law-Now information relates to circumstances prevailing at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments.

The original publication date for this article was 01/12/2011.

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