Lord Young restores common sense to health and safety and the compensation culture
15 October 2010
Lord Young of Graffham, the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Health and Safety Law and Practice, today publishes his report Common Sense, Common Safety, examining the country’s perceived compensation culture and the impact of health and safety regulations on businesses and personal freedom.
The Prime Minister and the Cabinet have accepted all of the recommendations put forward by Lord Young, who will continue to work across departments to ensure his recommendations are carried through.
Common Sense, Common Safety puts forward a series of policies for improving the perception of health and safety, to ensure it is taken seriously by employers and the general public, while ensuring the burden on small business is as insignificant as possible. At the same time, Lord Young calls for restrictions on advertising for “no win, no fee” compensation claims and a revolution in the way personal injury claims are handled.
Among the key recommendations is to extend the simplified Road Traffic Accident Personal Injury Scheme to include other personal injury claims. This would provide a simple three-stage procedure for lower value claims, accessible via the internet, with fixed costs for each stage.
Lord Young also proposes a common sense approach to educational trips, which currently entail a plethora of forms to fill in, deterring teachers and others who work with children from arranging any trips at all. He recommends a single consent form covering all activities a child might undertake at school.
In order to ensure consistency and professionalism in implementing health and safety legislation, Lord Young has recommended that consultants who undertake workplace assessment should be professionally qualified and registered on an online database.
Responses to the Your Freedom website showed that Lord Young's recommendations echo public concerns about health and safety and the compensation culture. Contributions to the website also showed widespread misunderstandings about legislation in both areas. Lord Young's recommendations seek to clarify these misconceptions and free individuals, businesses and voluntary organisations from the climate of fear that they create.
Lord Young of Graffham said:
“For too long, health and safety has been allowed to become a joke in the media and among the public. It’s about time it was taken seriously. I believe that the best way to do this is to ease the burden in places where health and safety is not an issue, and to discourage the compensation culture that has spread fear of litigation throughout our society.
“I believe my recommendations will be an important step towards restoring civil liberties, shredding red tape and making sure that health and safety rules are properly applied and respected. I am grateful to the Prime Minister for asking me to undertake this important work, and I am pleased that he has accepted all of my suggestions.”
The Prime Minister said:
“Good health and safety is vitally important. But all too often good, straightforward legislation designed to protect people from major hazards has been extended inappropriately to cover every walk of life, no matter how low risk.
“A damaging compensation culture has arisen, as if people can absolve themselves from any personal responsibility for their own actions, with the spectre of lawyers only too willing to pounce with a claim for damages on the slightest pretext.
“We simply cannot go on like this. That’s why I asked Lord Young to do this review and put some common sense back into health and safety. And that’s exactly what he has done.”
DWP Minister Chris Grayling said:
"Lord Young’s review restores common sense to health and safety regulation and sets clear limits to what organisations and individuals need to do to manage risk.
"By reducing unnecessary red tape we can encourage businesses to come and invest in the UK, creating jobs and opportunities when we need them most."
Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly said:
“The Government welcomes Lord Young’s call for reform of the way in which personal injury claims and other civil cases are taken before the courts. We will be consulting shortly on how ‘no win no fee’ conditional fee agreements should be improved.”
Summary of recommendations in Lord Young’s Common Sense, Common Safety:
- Introduce a simplified claims procedure for personal injury claims similar to that for road traffic accidents under £10,000 on a fixed costs basis. Explore the possibility of extending the framework of such a scheme to cover low value medical negligence claims.
- Examine the option of extending the upper limit for road traffic accident personal injury claims to £25,000.
- Introduce the recommendations in Lord Justice Jackson’s review of civil litigation costs.
- Restrict the operation of referral agencies and personal injury lawyers and control the volume and type of advertising.
- Clarify (through legislation if necessary) that people will not be held liable for any consequences due to well-intentioned voluntary acts on their part.
Low hazard workplaces
- Simplify the risk assessment procedure for low hazard workplaces such as offices, classrooms and shops.The HSE should create simpler interactive risk assessments for low hazard workplaces, and make them available on its website.
- The HSE should create periodic checklists that enable businesses operating in low hazard environments to check and record their compliance with regulations as well as online video demonstrations of best practice in form completion.
- The HSE should develop similar checklists for use by voluntary organisations.
- Exempt employers from risk assessments for employees working from home in a low hazard environment.
- Exempt self-employed people in low hazard businesses from risk assessments.
- Professionalise health and safety consultants with a qualification requirement that all consultants should be accredited to professional bodies. Initially the HSE could take the lead in establishing the validation body for qualifications, working with the relevant sector and professional bodies. However, this function should be run by the professional bodies as soon as possible.
- Establish a web based directory of accredited health and safety consultants.
- Insurance companies should cease the current practice that requires businesses operating in low hazard environments to employ health and safety consultants to carry out full health and safety risk assessments.
- Where health and safety consultants are employed to carry out full health and safety risk assessments, only qualified consultants who are included on the web based directory should be used.
- There should be consultation with the insurance industry to ensure that worthwhile activities are not unnecessarily curtailed on health and safety grounds. Insurance companies should draw up a code of practice on health and safety for businesses and the voluntary sector. If the industry is unable to draw up such a code, then legislation should be considered.
- Simplify the process that schools and similar organisations undertake before taking children on trips.
- Introduce a single consent form that covers all activities a child may undertake during his or her time at a school.
- Introduce a simplified risk assessment for classrooms.
- Shift from a system of risk assessment to a system of risk–benefit assessment and consider reviewing the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 to separate out play and leisure from workplace contexts.
- Officials who ban events on health and safety grounds should put their reasons in writing.
- Enable citizens to have a route for redress where they want to challenge local officials’ decisions. Local authorities will conduct an internal review of all refusals on the grounds of health and safety.
- Citizens should be able to refer unfair decisions to the Ombudsman, and a fast track process should be implemented to ensure that decisions can be overturned within two weeks. If appropriate, the Ombudsman may award damages where it is not possible to reinstate an event. If the Ombudsman’s role requires further strengthening, then legislation should be considered.
- Health and safety legislation
- The HSE should produce clear separate guidance under the Code of Practice focused on small and medium businesses engaged in lower risk activities.
- The current raft of health and safety regulations should be consolidated into a single set of accessible regulations.
- The UK should take the lead in cooperating with other member states to ensure that EU health and safety rules for low risk businesses are not overly prescriptive, are proportionate and do not attempt to achieve the elimination of all risk.
Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995
- Amend the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995, through which businesses record workplace accidents and send returns to a centralised body, by extending to seven days the period before an injury or accident needs to be reported.
- The HSE should also re-examine the operation of the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 to determine whether this is the best approach to providing an accurate national picture of workplace accidents.
- Working with larger companies
- Undertake a consultation with the intention of having an improved system with an enhanced role for the HSE in place for large multi-site retail businesses as soon as practicable.
Combining food safety and health and safety inspections
- Combine food safety and health and safety inspectors in local authorities.
- Make mandatory local authority participation in the Food Standards Agency’s Food Hygiene Rating Scheme, where businesses serving or selling food to the public will be given a rating of 0 to 5 which will be published in an online database in an open and standardised way.
- Promote usage of the scheme by consumers by harnessing the power and influence of local and national media.
- Encourage the voluntary display of ratings, but review this after 12 months and, if necessary, make display compulsory – particularly for those businesses that fail to achieve a ‘generally satisfactory’ rating.
- The results of inspections should be published by local authorities in an online database in an open and standardised way.
- Open the delivery of inspections to accredited certification bodies, reducing the burden on local authorities and allowing them to target resources at high risk businesses.
- Police officers and firefighters should not be at risk of investigation or prosecution under health and safety legislation when engaged in the course of their duties if they have put themselves at risk as a result of committing a heroic act. The HSE, Association of Chief Police Officers and Crown Prosecution Service should consider further guidance to put this into effect.
- Abolish the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority and replace licensing with a code of practice.
Notes to Editors
Cabinet Office Press Office
- Lord Young of Graffham was asked by the Prime Minister in June to undertake a review of the compensation culture and the implementation of health and safety legislation. His report, Common Sense, Common Safety, is published on the 10 Downing Street website at http://www.number10.gov.uk/news/latest-news/2010/10/lord-young-report-55605
- The Your Freedom website was open to public comments from 1 July to 19 September 2010, inviting everyone to provide there ideas on restoring civil liberties, repealing unnecessary laws and reducing bureaucracy. These ideas are being examined by officials and ministers across government and factored into policymaking decisions.
London SW1A 2WH
Tel: 020 7276 0432 – Fax: 020 7276 1146
Out of hours telephone 07699 113300 and ask for pager number 721338