Fleet News

Safety expert warns against diluting laws

Common Sense, Common Safety, is Lord Young’s attempt to change the perception and reduce the bureaucracy surrounding health and safety legislation.

He told insurance, legal and health and safety professionals, at a recent event hosted by Cardinus Risk Management, of the need for legislation to be proportionate to the level of risk.

“Accidents and fatalities in the workplace are steadily declining,” he said. “Yet despite the facts, health and safety is becoming a joke.”

To prevent health and safety being in the headlines for the wrong reasons, Lord Young is calling for a reduction in bureaucracy in low-risk occupations.

But Gerard Forlin QC, a leading expert in health and safety law, urged caution against tinkering with important legislation.

“The reason why fatality numbers are falling is because there is fear,” he said.

He wants to know how low-risk will be interpreted and warned against making changes that are not carefully thought through.

“One of the problems with fiddling with this stuff is that if you take something out, you’ve got to know why it was put their in the first place,” he said.

“I saw this when working on train crash inquiries when it became evident that following privatisation some rules were taken out because nobody could remember why they were there in the first place. Doing this can have catastrophic effects.”

Fleets have been acutely aware of the need to protect their organisations against prosecution under health and safety legislation. But minds were focused further with the introduction of the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act.

It’s brought health and safety in the industry to a new level, while the number of employees killed or seriously hurt driving for work has steadily declined.

Jon Abbott, managing director ergonomics and safety at Cardinus, added: “One area that must not be overlooked is the commercial benefit of a well-managed health and safety policy.

“It can improve productivity and reduce absenteeism. Business can be won and lost on the way you manage your health and safety and that message is at risk of being forgotten.”

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