New health and safety regulations to benefit retailers, claims supplier

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Sweeping changes to relax health and safety regulations following the 2011 budget will have a positive impact on the retail industry, according to workplace equipment supplier Slingsby.

In his 2011 Budget announcement, UK chancellor George Osborne confirmed the Government would accept the full recommendations of a major review into health and safety last year by Lord Young, which found many businesses and organisations were increasingly risk-averse for fear of being sued.

Lee Wright, marketing director at Slingsby, which supplies more than 35,000 workplace products including an extensive range of health and safety equipment, said: “The main point of these changes is while it is still necessary to ensure workplaces are safe for both employees and visitors, there will be far fewer health and safety checks for ‘low hazard workplaces’ such as retail businesses and simplified guidance is soon to be published outlining the rules they must follow.

“Inspectors will mainly focus on unscrupulous employers who regularly put employees in danger as well as high risk workplaces such as manufacturing plants and construction sites. An official list of health and safety consultants is also being produced to eliminate unqualified rouge operators, who are partly responsible for the over-regulated system.

Wright said: “In addition ‘no win, no fee’ law firms, which have hit many retailers in recent years, will no longer be able to offer cash incentives to people to encourage them to pursue compensation claims. The Government is also looking at outlawing ‘success fees’ which winning law firms can claim on top of compensation awarded to their clients. Instead the client will have to pay their legal bill out of the damages they are awarded.

“Whilst the new system is designed to still protect people, it will greatly reduce the burden of bureaucracy by minimising the chances of regulations being misinterpreted. Whether it is successful in putting an end to the UK’s compensation culture remains to be seen but hopefully it will lead to claimants getting fair amounts of compensation quickly and efficiently.”

Wright said: “It’s important to stress that although these reforms should simplify the regulations, health and safety should still be a key priority for all organisations and, whilst there are likely to be fewer checks, any businesses breaching health and safety regulations will still face penalties and consequences.”

Streamlining the health and safety regulations will be the responsibility of risk assessment specialist Professor Lofstedt who will now review the entire system and publish his findings later on in the year.