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Businesses 'highly sceptical' about government H&S reforms

Published 21st March, 2012 by Neil Nixon

Businesses 'highly sceptical' about government H&S reforms

UK companies are highly sceptical that the government is going to deliver on its promise to slash the amount of health and safety legislation and make it easier for them to get on with their business, according to health and safety advisor and employment law specialist Bibby Consulting & Support.

The company's 'Health and Safety Survey 2012' has revealed that not only do many businesses not know what they are meant to comply with but there is a genuine fear of even more legislation coming over the horizon. The nationwide survey canvassed 8000 organisations of various sizes and industry sectors, with around 70% of respondents either company owners or directors of small to medium sized businesses.

Michael Slade, managing director of Bibby Consulting & Support, said the survey showed there was very little faith within the business community that the government would successfully have a red tape bonfire in health and safety legislation. "I think it's fair to say there isn't a huge belief that the government is going to be able to cut the red tape in the way that it has described," he said. "There really isn't the confidence that this will happen and that is one aspect of the fear that is genuinely out there. I think the fear is well founded. When I look back at the history of health and safety legislation it has been a story of continual change in response to things that have happened. Every time there is a serious incident a new piece of legislation has been created and I don't see any great evidence that the government is going to stop doing that."

However, there is another angle to consider, Slade said. Companies might have limited confidence that the current situation was going to change very much, but even if it did and the amount of health and safety legislation was reduced, that in its own right would put enormous pressure on businesses.

"The reality for companies of all types and sizes is that any time a change happens somebody still has to get their mind around that change," Slade said. "So even if a piece of legislation is halved, someone in the organisation still has to look at what that means for day to day operations. Simplification is absolutely the right thing but with it comes change, and change can sometimes cause problems unless the government is willing to provide guidance and support along with it."

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