Government aims to reduce ‘elf ‘n safety’ regulations

Businesses such as shops, offices and pubs will no longer have to deal with health and safety inspections under new plans unveiled by the government.

In a bid to curb the amount of red tape blocking UK business growth, ‘burdensome’ health and safety tests are set to be scrapped.

The coalition government is planning to do away with 3,000 regulations relating to health and safety and is introducing binding new rules on the Health & Safety Executive and on local authorities.

As part of changes due to come into force in April 2013, businesses will only face health and safety inspections if companies operate in high risk areas such as construction, or have a track record of poor performance.

Additionally, legislation being brought in next month means that companies will only be held liable for civil damages in health and safety cases if it can be proven that acts were committed in a negligent way.

The health and safety drive is part of the government’s Red Tape Challenge process, an examination of 6,500 ‘substantive regulations’ aimed at cutting £40 million a year in employment tribunals and bring about environmental regulation savings of £1 billion over five years.

The Department for Business Skills and Innovation says that the scheme is the ‘most ambitious action ever proposed by a modern British government’ and will save British firms millions of pounds in wasted time and money.

Business secretary Vince Cable says that he is determined to put ‘common sense’ back into areas like health and safety.

The announcement comes at the same time that new research shows that 70 per cent of UK SME decision makers would like the government to focus on cutting red tape.

Findings from insurance company Zurich reveals that SMEs rank the need to get rid of prohibitive regulations as more important than improving access to finance (54 per cent) and reviewing employment legislation (36 per cent).

Alexander Ehmann, head of regulatory policy at the Institute of Directors, comments, ‘[The] announcements are good news if they are the beginning, not the end of the deregulation story.

‘Excessive regulation costs time and money, both of which businesses would rather spend on developing new products, hiring staff and building up British business both here and abroad.’

The government is currently operating a One-in-one-out rule which reportedly ensures that the cost imposed on businesses and social enterprises by any new domestic regulation is matched by deregulation with an equivalent saving for UK business.

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