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Health And Safety Not Over-regulated

August 1 2010 - Recent research from the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University found that safety in the workplace has been adversely affected by policy changes relating to health and safety over the last ten years, with reduced levels of enforcement by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE). These findings challenge the perception that health and safety is over-regulated.

The report entitled Regulatory Surrender: death, injury and the non-enforcement of law found that inspections of business premises fell by 69 per cent and investigations of health and safety-related incidents by 68 per cent. The study also identified a 48 per cent reduction in prosecutions of organisations for breaching HSE regulations.

Dr David Whyte, reader in sociology at the University of Liverpool, said:

"The idea that health and safety has ‘gone mad' does not seem to hold true. The collapse in inspection, investigation and enforcement has dramatically reduced the chances of businesses being detected and prosecuted for committing safety offences.  Most serious injuries now are not even investigated.  For example, only a third of amputations are now investigated by the Health and Safety Executive."

Researchers explain that the new U.K. government elected in May 2010 announced a wide-ranging review of health and safety regulations in response to claims that industry had been 'saturated' by legislation passed by the outgoing administration. The Liverpool study concluded that the HSE's inspection and enforcement powers had been reduced, resulting in increased numbers of employees at risk of suffering work-related accidents or injuries.

Professor Steve Tombs, of Liverpool John Moores University, commented:

"HSE's senior's management have effectively surrendered to the Government's lighter touch regulatory agenda. Not only is the agency now more vulnerable to further 'reviews' of regulation, but workers too are increasingly vulnerable - as managements are far less likely to respond to workers' demands to comply with the law in the absence of a credible enforcement threat."


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