Regulating Health and Safety at Work: An Agenda for Change?

Proposals for reform and an assessment of the extent the government’s strategy has failed to meet its own targets.

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About the book

Over a million workers each year suffer an accident at work, more than two million people suffer an illness which they believe to have been caused by their work and more than 25,000 people leave the labour force each year as a result of work-related injury and illness. Such injury and ill health results in the annual loss of over 25 million working days. The estimated cost to the tax payer is over £58 billion in medical and social security costs. The cost to workers and their families is clearly socially and morally unacceptable.

The Health and Safety at Work Act was placed on the statute book over 30 years ago. Since then the world of work has changed both in the kind of work being performed and the structure of the labour market. The present scale of work-related harm suggests that the existing framework of law and the principles underpinning that law are no longer appropriate to the world of work today. The laws need reviewing and updating.

In 1999 the first edition of this report did just that. We believe that report and its recommendations represented the most comprehensive review of health and safety since the Robens Committee Report of 1972.

Our conclusions, based on evidence collected over a two year period, were that a more demanding legal framework of regulation was required together with a more rigorous approach to enforcement. Unfortunately, in a strategy announced a year later, the government adopted a different approach, emphasising voluntary action and self-regulation.

Now in this second edition of our 1999 report, the authors review the proposals made in our initial report, compare our proposals to the government’s own strategy and assess the extent to which the government’s strategy has failed to meet its own targets for improved health and safety standards. The conclusion? Our initial calls for robust regulation and rigorous enforcement remain as valid today as they were in 1999.


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