Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Health and Safety inspections cut in Regulation curb

Health and Safety inspections cut in Regulation curb

My Comments in bold.

Plans to exempt thousands of businesses from health and safety inspections have been announced by ministers. There is no specific mention of Fire, but I would expect this to be the case.

Under new rules to be introduced in April 2013, checks will no longer be routinely carried out on premises considered to be low risk.

Ministers say the checks can place an unnecessary burden on some businesses, but some trade unions say it risks the safety of employees and customers.

The government says it will scrap or change more than 3,000 regulations.

It says its drive to cut bureaucracy will save companies millions of pounds.

Under plans announced by Business Minister Michael Fallon, shops, offices, pubs and clubs will no longer face health and safety inspections.

How can Michael Fallon determine generically what is low risk just by the Purpose Group? How can you deem a Pub or Club to be Low Risk when you have hundreds, possibly thousands of people in often overcrowded areas, not familiar with the building and under the influence of alcohol? How can Offices with a myriad of electrical appliance (Highest cause of fire in the UK) be deemed Low Risk without an assessment?

Mr Fallon said the overhaul would also include changes to rules on employment, but denied that the moves would reduce job security.

'Burdensome inspections'

Businesses will only face health and safety inspections if they are operating in areas deemed to be higher-risk, such as construction and food production, or if they have had an accident or a track record of poor performance.

The numbers of Fires in Construction and Food Manufacturing is so low that they are included in "others" in the latest Scottish Fire statistics. See Table 6.

This shows that the number of Fires in Entertainment, Sport & Culture premises was 143.

The number of Fires in Food & drink premises was 194. This is a total of 337 fires in one of the Purpose Groups Michael Fallon wants to de-regulate.

This figure far outweighs the number of fires in Construction sites and Food manufacturing.

Ministers also said legislation would be introduced next month to ensure that businesses will only be held liable for civil damages in health and safety cases if they can be shown to have acted negligently.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said businesses need to focus on creating jobs and growth rather than "being tied up in unnecessary red tape".

He said: "I've listened to those concerns and we're determined to put common sense back into areas like health and safety, which will reduce costs and fear of burdensome inspections."

And Mr Fallon said the move injects "fresh impetus" into the government's drive to cut red tape.

"We have identified the red tape and now we are going to cut it," he said.

Business groups have welcomed the plan.

Alexander Ehmann, head of regulatory policy at the Institute of Directors, said the announcement was "good news" if it marked "the beginning, not the end, of the deregulation story".

'Lethal consequences'

Michael Fallon: government wants to cut business regulations by half

"Excessive regulation costs time and money, both of which businesses would rather spend on developing new products, hiring staff and building up British business both here and abroad," he said.

But some trade unions have voiced opposition to the move.

And Bob Crow, leader of the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union called it an "all-out attack on safety" which he said will have "lethal consequences for workers and the public alike as businesses are given the green light to cut corners".

Source BBC

My goodness. Here we go again. Shades of the De-Regulation task force during the Thatcher years. Health & Safety has been given a rough ride in recent years because of daft decisions. Not by Health & Safety professionals but by amateurs trying to "do the right thing".

There is no mention Fire as being part of this drive but I would not be surprised if it is included. I understand that Business organisations such as The Federation of Small Businesses have been actively lobbying the Government regarding what they see as burdens to Businesses.

It will be a bigger burden if someone loses their life because the requisite knowledge to ascertain whether premises are safe or not is not available.

Surely it is up to the Assessment as to when the Assessment review takes place.

Fire is a Devolved matter and The Scottish Government should not follow in the footsteps of this mad dash to De-regulation. Fires have de-creased substantially in non domestic properties. Argueably because of the Assessments being carried out by Fire Safety Professionals making sure that premises are safe and giving advice via an action plan if the premises are not safe.

If these proposals are followed in Scotland it will make the probability of having a fire in the workplace higher.

This, at a time when many Fire Safety Departments are cutting Staff and the Audits and Inspection numbers are decreasing. The only people ensuring Public and Staff members' safety are private Companies carrying out Fire Risk Assessments on behalf of the Duty Holder.

If this ceases to be a requirement, the instances of fire will undoubtedly increase and fatal Fire Statistics will undoubtedly rise and all the good work carried out in recent years will be undone. In the last week there have been fires in Pakistan & India where there has been an enormous loss of life. These Countries do not have the same Fire Safety requirements as we have in the UK and this is the first step towards a non conformance regime as seen in these and other countries.

Existing Fire Regulations, The Regulatory Reform (Fire) Order 2005 (in England & Wales) and The Fire (Scotland) Act part 3 2005 (in Scotland) were brought in to take the place of Certification under The Fire Precautions Act 1971. These Certificates were issued by The Fire Authority when certain conditions were met. The Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997 were also superseded by todays Legislation.

If this De Regulation does include Fire, the whole concept of knowing one's limitations as a Duty Holder are going to be disregarded as the Duty Holder/Responsible Person is being encouraged to save money by not using Professionals. This is a false premise as one third of Businesses involved in Fire never re-open. What then of Michael Fallon's "developing new products, hiring staff" when there is no Business left?

Under these proposals, there will be no inspections of these premises by either The Fire Authority or Fire Safety Professionals. A recipe for disaster.

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