Competitiveness White Paper: Workplace regulations: Health and safety laws to be 'simplified and modernised'

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The Independent Online
The Government yesterday revealed a 'simplification and modernisation' of health and safety regulations which stopped far short of the 'deregulation' sought by some ministers.

Michael Forsyth, the Thatcherite employment minister, emphasised that seven pieces of primary legislation would be abolished along with around 100 individual regulations that were either obsolete or no longer necessary.

Frank Davies, chairman of the Health and Safety Commission, however, said the changes, announced as part of the White Paper, effectively meant it was 'business as usual' for his organisation.

Mr Davies said it would take between three and five years to carry out the changes recommended in a review by the commission.

Senior factory inspectors, anxious to retain much of the regulation and protect their jobs, are known to be satisfied at the outcome. A plan to absolve the self- employed from some of the regulations was abandoned.

Health and safety lobbyists described the decisions as 're-regulation rather than deregulation' because the review would simplify rather than repeal the law.

Paul Gallagher, general secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union and a member of the commission, said: 'The Government thought they could make a huge bonfire of safety regulations but they've had their fingers badly burned.'

Mr Forsyth said that when he ordered the review two years ago, there was no intention to reduce safety. 'The changes reduce the burden of red tape on business but . . . maintain standards of protection for the workforce.'