Occupational Health and Safety in the UK: At a Crossroads?
Published in: E Ales (ed), Health and Safety at Work: European and Comparative Perspective (Kluwer Law International 2013) pp. 375-410.
Posted: 4 Apr 2015
Date Written: September 1, 2012
In recent years, there has been an increasingly critical public debate about the utility of health and safety legislation in the UK, with some parts of the media promoting the idea that this branch of law is excessively protective leading to undue restrictions on businesses. This is summed up in the popular expression: ‘health and safety gone mad’. The Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition that took office in May 2010 acted swiftly to establish a review of health and safety law in order to combat the perceived ‘compensation culture’ and to ensure that the law did not ‘overwhelm businesses with red tape’. In contrast, trade unions point to regular statistics showing that hundreds of thousands of people continue to be injured at work annually, as well as those who develop work-related illnesses. Moreover, data also show a dramatic decline in workplace health and safety inspections and prosecutions in recent years.
This paper considers both the role of statute and the role of common law as regards the protection of workers’ health and safety. It commences with an introduction to the main facets of the British legal framework. It then examines core concepts in health and safety law, before turning to examine the duties imposed on various actors, such as employers and employees. The role of workers’ representatives is analysed and the chapter concludes with an overview of the remedies for breach of health and safety law. In keeping with the general theme of the collection in which it is published, particular attention is paid to the rules applying to the construction industry.
Keywords: health, safety, employment
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