Health and Safety – and the Boer War!

The recently enacted Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act contains a number of disturbing provisions, including the frankly bonkers proposals in relation to share incentives for employees who are prepared to sign away their employment rights.healthemail

But hidden away in there, and most disturbing of all perhaps, was Clause 61, a last minute amendment that snuck into the Bill under the auspices of the Government’s clamp down on regulation, red tape and the so-called compensation culture.

It is significant to note that:

– Clause 61 was never subject to any form of public consultation; and
– It was introduced to the Bill after the Bill had been through its Committee stage in the House of Commons (in effect, it was hardly scrutinised at all).

What was the effect of Clause 61?

In terms, it rolled back the statutory Health and Safety framework for civil claims so that now in 2013 an employee injured at work is in essentially the same boat in which he or she would have found themselves in 1897.

That’s right, 1897.

116 years of progress in Health and Safety has been abolished in an eye blink.

My colleagues who support workers who make claims in respect of work related injuries always say this: our clients have never, ever expressed as great an interest in compensation as they have wished to be free from injury or disease.

And the strides made in the last 20 years in improving safety at work have been enormous.  They have been driven, by and large, by employers who have improved their standards of care at work, in response to claims brought by injured victims – since for many employers the finest incentive to improve good practice at work is a positive impact on the bottom line (i.e. a reduction in insurance premiums relating to workplace claims).

The details of the change in the law are dry.  In its broadest sense, it might be said that it will now be substantially more difficult for injured employees to recover compensation for those injuries.

Insurance Companies will save money.

But the NHS will not.  Historically rehabilitation costs have been recovered from Insurers; now those costs will be distributed back to the State.

And isn’t the point of insurance after all to try to spread amongst us all the impact of one devastating event upon an individual?

The Government concedes that up to 70,000 claims a year might be adversely affected by their changes to the law.

We were not asked about it.  There is no evidence base for the changes that have been made.  Yet more false claims of “perception of over regulation” are spouted by the coalition.

It’s about time we started to legislate to deal with real problems, rather than “perceptions”.

Until we do, more people will suffer without redress, Health & Safety standards will slip, families will be devastated by death and injury – and eventually (since I think sometimes these things go in cycles) someone will have to face front and say that Health & Safety laws are there for a purpose.

By then those now in power may be enjoying lucrative consultancy contracts in the Lords.  I wonder who will apologise to the injured and the families of the dead then.

From our Legal Correspondent.

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