One is forever hearing about ludicrous people taking the collective moral panic of “health and safety” to ludicrous extremes. Children being made to wear safety glasses to play conkers in the playground, and the Mayor of Maidstone having her mayoral flag removed from her car on the ground that it constituted a distraction to other drivers, are but two examples which spring to mind.
This government has been swift to pin its colours to the mast (obviously using the appropriate personal protective equipment, having undergone the requisite half day training course) of a commitment to try to return things where a little more common sense based on personal responsibility prevailed. Perhaps somewhere between sending eight-year-olds to work in cotton factories and making goggles mandatory for council workers handling blutac. OK, perhaps closer to the latter! Chris Grayling MP the Employment Minister says he wants to cut “needless bureaucracy” which prevents businesses from growing.
Consultation closed last week on the Department for Work and Pensions review of workplace rules; specifically whether there is any evidence that some litigation and the compensation generated by it which could be scrapped. The results are expected to be published in a few months.
The Law Society Gazette yesterday made reference to the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers proffering a warning to the Government. It quotes APIL vice-president Karl Tonks as saying “any assault on health and safety, in a bid to cut back on what is perceived to be too much regulation, is a shot at the wrong target... All that’s needed is to ensure people understand the existing rules properly and apply them with common sense.”
Well, can you have one without the other? Is this the way to stem the tide of what is oft-quoted to be a ‘Litigation Culture’? Can the current rules be sensibly interpreted? Presumably this would rely upon some robust pronouncements from the courts in this area?
The one thing, however, that a rethink of the litigation itself would do, is to potentially end the prevalent culture within many organisations (both public and private) of everybody being scared of falling foul of an often non-existent ‘Elf and Safety Bogeyman.