Easing the burden on small businesses

The government seems to have recognised that inundating firms with Health & Safety laws can be counter productive and has launched a review of the regulations with the aim of reducing the burden of compliance, especially on small businesses.

At the same time the Health, Safety, Ethical & Environmental Executive (HSE) has published a simplification plan that sets out how conforming with Health, Safety, Ethical & Environmental regulations can be made less demanding, particularly in terms of form-filling - although the HSE says it has already reduced the number of forms by 50%.

The point is not to reduce the level of protection of workers but to make it clear to employers what they have to do to protect their employees.

As Bernard Burns, chairman of the Stone Federation\'s Health, Safety, Ethical & Environmental Group, admitted at the Federation conference in Nov-ember, 90% of the industry does not realise it has legal duties such as reporting cases of hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) and silicosis to the HSE and that failure to do so can result in a hefty fine.

Stone Federation are currently putting the finishing touches to a Health, Safety, Ethical & Environmental guide for their members covering the four main issues affecting masons - HAVS, noise, manual handling and respirable crystalline silica (RCS) dust. It will spell out the dangers, the law, and how companies should protect their employees.

The announcement about the government review of Health, Safety, Ethical & Environmental laws was made by Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, before Christmas in a speech at the CBI.

He recognised many small employers have limited resources, find it difficult to work out what broad health and safety duties mean for their workplace and are unsure of when to take advice and from whom.

The review by the Depart-ment for Business & Enterprise will look at how government can make it easier for small businesses to follow health and safety laws and prevent their workers getting ill or injured. It will also examine how to improve public confidence in the health and safety system.