Choosing to repeal legislation that has led to an 80 per cent reduction in work place fatalities would seem to be an odd political choice. That this decision should be lauded by the media might seem even more perverse, yet this is precisely what happened when David Cameron announced his decision to “kill off Britain’s health and safety culture for good”.
What is even more strange, is that the UK is rather good at Health and Safety. Our fatal injury rate is one of the lowest in Europe and has been for the last six years. The number of deaths has fallen from 651 per annum in 1974, when legislation was introduced, to 171 last year (Health and Safety Executive information). That’s still 171 lost lives, which hardly suggests we should be doing away with measures to keep people safe at work.
Contrary to the statement that Health and Safety is an “albatross hanging round the neck of British Business” that hampers growth, figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that Health and Safety representatives save almost £600m per year based on the reduction in lost time from occupational injury and illness. This is based on the reduction of between 286,000 and 616,000 lost days per year.
While no one in business would support unnecessary bureaucracy, much of the hoohah surrounding Health and Safety is more fiction than fact. Banning the fireman’s pole and school ties; requiring small businesses to have a health and safety consultant; making children wear goggles to play conkers – these are all fiction.
While we welcome any measures to simplify procedures and avoid unnecessary hurdles that could impede a return to growth, abandoning Health and Safety regulation is not the way forward. A health and safety culture is the very thing that responsible business managers have been striving to instill for the past two decades. Far from being an albatross or a monster, Health and Safety promotes productivity, it also saves lives.
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