With a new government announcement imminent, the future of the country seems to be on everybody’s lips regardless of their industry or sector. When it comes to health and safety, any decisions are likely to affect many people across the country.
In the previous coalition government health and safety took a hit, seeing a reduction in the protection of the self-employed, reporting requirements relaxed and inspections slashed (1). However, it is important to note that these plans were not mentioned in any of the parties’ manifestos prior to the election in 2000, quite the opposite; plans were proposed to amend health and safety laws that stand in the way of common sense policing. Needless to say, the world of health and safety was not happy with this lack of follow up on promises.
With this in mind, we will take a tentative look at the current party manifestos in order to get a feel for where the future of health and safety, risk assessments and reporting may lead us. We had to look hard though, as this does not seem to be an issue that is highly regarded with any of the parties.
Although the words ‘health and safety’ aren’t specifically mentioned within the Conservative party’s manifesto their goal seems to be to continue their campaign to reduce regulations regarding health and safety. Shelly Frost, Executive director of policy of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) said about the budget cuts to health and safety under the Conservative reign, “OSH (a leading, independent health and safety consultancy) has been seen by some as a burden. In the early days of this parliament we saw David Cameron vow to, ‘kill off the health and safety monster’.” (2)
The word “unnecessary” is used a lot within the Conservative’s plans, with the aim to remove so called “unnecessary rules and regulations”. This is all part of the budget cut that the Conservatives say has already saved £10bn. However, many are concerned that health and safety is not being taken seriously.
The Labour party published a separate manifesto to sit alongside the main bulk, focusing on the workplace. The party stated, “Labour will also work to support health and safety, reducing the toll of workplace injuries, fatalities and occupational ill-health, including for the self-employed, and reviewing specific issues such as excessive workplace temperatures.” (3) The issue of blacklisting has also been mentioned with commitments to tackle this and to improve the lives of health and safety activists.
While remembering that a party’s manifesto does not allow us to predict the future, Labour seem to be dedicated to protecting workers, implementing better practices for inspections, promoting occupational health and protecting the self-employed. They don’t, however, commit themselves to providing extra resources for HSE.
The Lib Dems, despite being extremely quiet on the matter of health and safety, do claim to understand the need for a more in-depth look at health and safety across the UK’s workforce. While they do propose, like the Conservatives, to remove unnecessary business regulation, they do so with more of a focus on reform and improvement of the Regulatory Policy Committee in order to remove uncertainty.
While the Liberal Democrats’ actual plans are unclear, they do say within their manifesto: “We understand that well-designed regulation, focused on outcomes rather than processes, has a vital role in creating markets and driving investment.” (4)
Health and safety doesn’t come into the Green party manifesto. They do however, propose their support of holding public inquiries into blacklisting and an end to “exploitative zero hour contracts.”
As expected UKIP aim to exit the EU and therefore rid Britain of what they say are unneeded regulations. This is with the aim to relieve the burden of being over regulated from small firms and businesses. This is UKIP’s only real reference to health and safety within their manifesto.
Although Conservative and Labour are the key players within this election, the possibility of another coalition government is ever looming and therefore the thoughts and claims of the smaller parties should also be on your radar. As we can see, health and safety has not been one of the top priorities for any of the parties’ manifestos, and so we can only speculate what the future will look like. To be sure though, there will be huge differences between parties depending on who makes it into office. We will have to wait and see.
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Glenn Hardy/Lee Davies
(4) Liberal Democrat general election manifesto 2015