Tuesday, 12 March 2013

An independent review of British health and safety regulation? From common sense to non-sense

an article by Phil James (Oxford Brookes University, UK), Steve Tombs (Liverpool John Moores University, UK) and David Whyte (University of Liverpool, UK) published in Policy Studies Volume 34 Issue 1 (2013)


The view that regulatory provisions protecting the employment conditions of workers need to be minimised in order to protect the business needs of employers has been an ongoing theme in British governmental policy discourse over the past three decades.

For the present Coalition government, the assumption that current levels of regulation are unduly burdensome on employers and hence harmful to the economy has continued to be enthusiastically voiced, most notably in respect of the regulation of workplace health and safety.

Against this backcloth, this paper develops a critical examination of the conclusions of an ‘independent’ review of health and safety regulations commissioned by the present UK Government to shed light on the way in which a deregulatory policy agenda is being furthered.

The paper commences by locating the recent review of health and safety regulations, the ‘Löfstedt review’, in the context of other recent government initiatives aimed at alleviating the burden of health and safety regulation from the shoulders of employers.

It then moves on to outline the nature of this review and its main conclusions and recommendations, before considering in turn its use of evidence, deployment of the notion of ‘low risk’ and lack of attention to the issue of enforcement.

Finally, a concluding section draws together the key points to emerge from the preceding analysis and highlights how the Löfstedt review can be seen to form an integral part of a misleading deregulatory discourse that threatens to engender the wholesale undermining of workplace health and safety protections.

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