Chapter 4 of Loftstedt’s report takes a look at the scope of UK regulations. In particular it’s interested to see whether that proportionate, risk-based approach is applied. One might argue that bigger, riskier businesses should have to do more to satisfy the law. There are also economies of scale, whereby larger businesses are resourced to do things that smaller businesses find much more difficult. But the fact is that often small businesses do engage in high risk activities. The professor argues logically, that the regulations should remain risk-based (and not company size based). But smaller businesses should be given more support and help in complying.
The point is also made that there can be disagreement over what ‘low risk’ business really means – ill health is often ignored in such an assessment of a business sector. Nonetheless, disquiet at the disproportionate effort for small, low risk businesses. This has resulted in the European Commission looking at whether formal, written risk assessment is necessary in this case. This might be a good thing, if we can decide what sort of businesses are in scope. On the other hand, the on-line checklist assessment tools that the HSE have produced for small businesses might obviate the need for this exemption.
Loftstedt tackles the issue of the self-employed. They of course need more help with understanding their obligations and with compliance. The report recommends that the self-employed are only made exempt if they undertake low risk activities (no potential risk of harm to others). I’m not so sure that they will be so easy to decide, unless there is some specific list of prescribed activities.
The report also discusses the application of safety legislation to schools and emergency services. Many of these issues are already being tackled as a result of recommendations from Dave Young, for example. Even though Lord Young was later sacked for inappropriate comments about the recession, he is still fondly remembered.