Health and safety cut back could help farmers

The government has announced plans for a major cut back of health and safety red tape and is setting up a new “challenge panel” which will allow businesses to get the decisions of HSE inspectors overturned immediately if they have got it wrong.

The move follows the publication of the Löfstedt Review into the legislation, commissioned by employment minister Chris Grayling in March.

Health and safety regulations will be cut in half over the next three years, through combining, simplifying and reducing approximately 200 existing regulations. The report also makes recommendations to ensure that employers are not held responsible for damages when they have done all they can to manage risks.

“We are putting common sense back at the heart of health and safety,” said Mr Grayling. “Our reforms will root out needless bureaucracy and put an emphasis on personal responsibility. Fundamentally we will ensure the health and safety system is fit for purpose.”

The government also plans to exempt one million self-employed businesses from health and safety law, though a spokeswoman at the Department of Work and Pensions said this was unlikely to include farmers. “The exemption is only for people whose work activity poses no potential risk of harm to others,” she said. “It applies to those with desk jobs – which farming most definitely is not.”

But farmers would benefit from the slimming down of the rule book and the setting up of the new challenge panel, she added.

The Forum of Private Business, which represents smaller businesses, welcomed the move towards greater shared responsibility on health and safety issues.

“Complying with health and safety regulations has become a serious burden for business and a major barrier to growth,” said senior policy adviser, Alex Jackman. “Civil action against businesses is a huge issue for our members, and many over-compensate where health and safety is concerned.

“Not only does this unduly raise the cost of compliance, but it also raises the expectations of employees should personal injury unfortunately befall them.”

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