A question of health and safety

Lord Young's review of health and safety law has been welcomed by industry and safety bodies but as a missed opportunity by one leading union
Spiky
Lord Young's report into health and safety has been largely welcomed but has had a spikier reception from the GMB union. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA

Judith Hackitt, the chief executive of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), has welcomed Lord Young's review of health and safety law, saying it will help create "clear water between the genuine stuff that we do and the nonsense that's done in our name".

Lord Young's review, Common Sense, Common Safety, was published on Friday 15 October, to a raft of encouraging comments from industry and safety bodies, including the HSE and the British Safety Council.

Julie Nerney, the chief executive of the British Safety Council, said the report included a "powerful toolbox of recommendations" that would help re-establish the credibility of the country's "enviable" health and safety laws and the recommendations were also "broadly welcomed" by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health.

Nerney also supported Lord Young's call to bring in outside expertise when shops, offices or restaurants are inspected – but said the government should look to the third sector for such skills, which would ensure any income is fed into charitable activities for the wider public benefit, rather than using the private sector.

Hackitt, at the HSE, said Lord Young's publicity work around his review had helped drive people to look at material that had been on the HSE website for a long time, including its "myth of the month" feature. "There is a consistency of message here that's being picked up on," she said.

The review by Lord Young says there should be an appeal process "and appropriate recompense" for people who want to challenge an "overzealous approach" by local authorities towards health and safety. He said the office of the Local Government Ombudsman, which has already been widened this month to include the power to investigate complaints about privately-owned care homes, may need to be strengthened to achieve this.

But the GMB union described the review as "a missed opportunity". It said many of the recommendations had already been implemented. The union's national health and safety officer, John McClean, said there was little in the report for the public or for workers and added that any attempt to undermine the existing regulatory regime would be not only a mistake, but would be an insult to those who had died or been injured.

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