As we prepare to mark the 40th anniversary of the Health and Safety at Work Act this summer, the Daily Telegraph has published an incisive article acknowledging the importance of the Act.
This is an extract from Philip Johnston’s opinion piece, which you can read in full on the Telegraph website.
‘Health and safety has become synonymous with nanny statism, interfering jobsworths, ludicrous litigation and risk aversion. And yet the Health and Safety at Work Act, which is 40 years old this summer, has arguably saved more lives than any other piece of legislation, including the ban on drink driving or the compulsory wearing of seat belts in cars. It may well have reduced deaths by 5,000 or more.
‘So how did an Act that was by any measure a milestone in social reform turn into one of the most disparaged statutes of recent times? Partly it has to do with the way the law is interpreted – and often wrongly blamed for absurd restrictions imposed on perfectly innocuous practices. But it also reflects an absolutist view that it is possible to avoid accidental injury or death, rather than simply to reduce the circumstances in which they might occur.
‘Forty years on, the Act has achieved what it set out to do, which is to insist upon high standards of health and safety in places of work. All we need do now is to apply the law with the common sense that inspired it in the first place.’
Readers of the blog by HSE Chair Judith Hackitt will recognise the sentiment. A post in January this year reads: ‘This year will mark 40 years since Health and Safety at Work Act received Royal Assent. Arguably it is one of the best pieces of legislation on the statute books – although we know it is often misunderstood and misinterpreted. It has protected millions of British workers, and driven sharp reductions in incidents of occupational death, serious injury and ill health.’
You can read the rest of Judith’s blog here.