We are all aware that this funny new Government have differing views within. That the mixture of Tory and liberal, right and left, blue and yellow leaves us with a smeary green smudge of a traditional, yet novel, somewhere right of centre ‘con dem’ Government.
Before the coalition came together so romantically, we pondered what might be. We reviewed the manifestos and election chit-chat to see what their policies reflected regarding a new era in our health and safety world.
On reflection they showed two parties quite divided on key issues such as penalties for health and safety failures, regulation and whether to strengthen or tighten aspects of this and common sense vs. control.
In the election special of IOSH’s Connect, each party was asked about their policies on legislation, enforcement, compensation, accreditation of consultants and health and safety education and training.
Legislation, enforcement and compensation
The Conservatives issued an extensive review undertaken by Lord Young following comments that the burden and impact of health and safety legislation had become too great over the last decade. The review, which was discussed by Lord Young at IOSH 10 in Glasgow, was received by a fair amount of trepidation within the industry.
In terms of enforcement the Conservatives said that they would wish to safeguard helpful regulations, particularly in situations where there is a potential abuse of power – for example, in the relationship between an employee and employer.
A Conservative Government proposed practical changes in the law, helping bring an end the culture of excessive litigation coinciding with legal safeguards to those who need them most.
Nick’s team on the other hand were discussing a common sense approach, but one which will penalise those denying their responsibilities. Like the Conservatives, the lib dems talk about lightening the burden.
The lib dems add that in terms of enforcement they would like to see proportionate fines to offences. They also state that hefty fines to remind employers and employees as well as risk assessment will be within their focus.
In terms of compensation, the liberal democrats said that they would only be able to comment in detail once the Labour-commissioned report into no win, no fee lawyers was published. They did however, state that they support restrictions on the ambulance chasing compensation culture.
Accreditation, Education and Training
The Conservatives said, about accreditation “contribution to the debate on the future of health and safety, but we will not make any commitments until Lord Young’s review has reported”. However Lord Young’s speech intimated that IOSH should lobby for regulatory powers.
They added “nobody should feel that they have been placed in employment without proper training.”
Nick’s party stated “We support IOSH’s proposals for an online register of health and safety consultants. There is a need to streamline and make transparent the qualifications of people working in this area” and added, “Health and safety education is, and should be, part of our education system.”
So we are now to see how this Government will come together on these issues. If more legislation will be created, if power will be handed to employers and directors, if more or less people go to prison and if fines will become larger and more reflective to offence rather than company profit. It is clear that the coalition may be divided on some aspects but the one common thought that resonates is that of lightening the burden and ensuring common sense prevails.