News In Focus
Young report aims to discourage "compensation culture"
A new approach to health and safety to stop it becoming a "joke" in the eyes of the public and the media has been recommended in a report published today.
The report, "Common Sense, Common Safety", by former Conservative cabinet minister Lord Young of Graffham, has been welcomed by the Prime Minister in a foreword.
Lord Young's 36 recommendations include:
- a simplified claims procedure for lower value personal injury claims, similar to the procedure launched earlier this year in England & Wales for road traffic claims;
- controls on the "volume and type" of advertising by claims management companies and personal injury claimant law firms;
- professional qualifications and an online registration system for consultants who carry out workplace safety assessments;
- local council officials who ban events on health and safety grounds should put their reasons in writing, and aggrieved citizens should have a fast track route for referring decisions to the Local Governmemnt Ombudsman, who could award damages where it was not possible to reinstate an event;
- a "common sense" approach to educational trips, with a single consent form covering all activities a child might undertake, in place of the "plethora" of forms that currently have to be completed and which deter some teachers from orgainsing trips at all;
- and that the Government should hold talks with the European Commission to negotiate a reduction of burdens for low-hazard environments, to reduce the burden on small firms.
He also supports the Jackson review's recommendations on civil litigation costs in England & Wales.
Ease the burden
Introducing his report, Lord Young said: "For too long, health and safety has been allowed to become a joke in the media and among the public. It's about time it was taken seriously.
"I believe that the best way to do this is to ease the burden in places where health and safety is not an issue, and to discourage the compensation culture that has spread fear of litigation throughout our society.
"I believe my recommendations will be an important step towards restoring civil liberties, shredding red tape and making sure that health and safety rules are properly applied and respected."
In the foreword to the report, Prime Minister David Cameron said the Government accepted all the recommendations. He commented: "A damaging compensation culture has arisen, as if people can absolve themselves from any personal responsibility for their own actions, with the spectre of lawyers only too willing to pounce with a claim for damages on the slightest pretext.
"We simply cannot go on like this." The Government, he added, would "put a stop to the senseless rules that get in the way of volunteering, stop adults from helping out with other people's children and penalise our police and fire services for acts of bravery".
Business groups have welcomed the review, but the TUC called it a "grave disappointment", saying that there was nothing in the report that would reduce the high levels of workplace death, injuries and illness.
The Institution of Occupational Health & Safety said it "broadly welcomed" the report. Chief executive Rob Strange said: "We warmly welcome this review. We are sick and tired of hearing of misinterpretations of health and safety laws which end in the cancellation of perfectly safe activities.
"Lord Young is absolutely right: the standing of health and safety has been lowered by ridiculous applications of the rules. This has to end.
"We think this review could see a turning point for health and safety in the UK by turning the focus away from daft decisions about conker competitions and hanging baskets and back onto saving people’s lives in genuinely hazardous areas of work and public life."
Lord Young has agreed to stay on as the Government's adviser on health and safety laws, to work with departments across Government in implementing his proposals.