Self-employed to be removed from Health & Safety at Work protection

Next week the government is intending to push through legislation which will remove the cover which self-employed people have always received over the last 40 years since the passing of the Health & Safety at Work Act.   Section 3 of this Act currently places a duty on all employers and self-employed people to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of others.   The government is now proposing to change this to: “It shall be the duty of every self-employed person who conducts an undertaking of a prescribed description to conduct the undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that he and other persons who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health and safety”.   This means that any self-employed person who is not on a prescribed list (not yet specified) will have no duties under the Act and will not be able to be convicted of any criminal act, or be issued with enforcement proceedings regardless of any risk that they pose to themselves or others.   This is one of the most dangerous pieces of deregulation on health and safety ever proposed.

This is dangerous because it means that neither the HSE nor a local authority will have the power to stop any self-employed person who is not on the prescribed listfrom doing anything that puts either themselves or another person at risk.   This is virtually a licence to kill.   It will be a green light to cowboys and incompetents to cut corners and take risks, not only with their own lives but also with ours.   The prescribed list which the government has issued excludes large numbers of self-employed who certainly are likely to pose a risk to themselves or others.   It excludes most of manufacturing and transport!   Even in those sectors that are covered it is unclear who is included.   For example in construction it’s not easy to tell whether it includes self-employed plumbers, electricians and carpenters who work in people’s homes.

Worse still, people who control the workplace where self-employed people work (often bogus-self-employed) will wrongly think that they do not have any duty of care to them.   Self-employed people who employ others may interpret it as meaning that they are exempt from the law.   This is very worrying when the most dangerous industries all have a high proportion of self-employed people in them agriculture, construction, etc.   But most worrying of all is the fact that self-employed people already have a fatality rate threee times higher than employees – with deaths at 1.1 per 100,000 for the self-employed as against 0.4 for employees.


2 thoughts on “Self-employed to be removed from Health & Safety at Work protection

  1. I actually have an open mind about this.

    As someone who has worked in some demanding, brutal and dangerous manufacturing environment’s over the years I got sick and tired a long time ago, of seeing far too many people, (often kids inexperienced and clueless, or older workers who’d misjudged their waning strength and agility,) getting wheeled out of various factories on stretchers, covered in blood or semi conscious and often minus various appendages.

    In one job, (prior to me becoming unemployed,) I was almost killed, (seriously and without exaggeration,) as result of the casing of machine that I was there working on having been wired up the 3 phase supply, (420v,) and which discharging through my left arm and out through side of my head, (failing to sue my then employer was one of worst errors of judgement of my adult life,) another employee of the same company then lost all his fingers; because of poor supervision and training as much as anything else and so on, so I’m no stranger to these issues.

    Nonetheless, few people would dispute that H&S has become something of racket, (bereft of all common sense,) for jobsworths and petty minded box tickers or that past a certain point, (diminishing returns,) often contributes almost nothing of any consequence to the actual physical safety of an employee.

    The actual underlying principle of all H&S of not knowingly or through culpable negligence, putting either yourself or other people at risk seem unaffected by this so perhaps it’s time review the situation, which already far from rosy anyway.

    What is actually needed are, once again, real deterrent penalties for people with ultimate overall responsibility for a company, i.e. the managers and the directors.

    Almost Cameron’s very first act as our un-elected PM was to have all the charges still outstanding against the former directors of Jarvis in relation to Potters Bar disaster quietly dropped, (unbelievably in the public interest,) so as with banking fraternity as long as those in charge remain exempt from the consequences of their cynicism or negligence then all the legislation in world won’t change anything very much, especially in current climate, (with hundreds of people chasing every job,) and when the pressure that can be put on an employee to ignore the rules, (not just H&S,) can be enormous.

    This is an important issue, well overdue for review and a huge dose of common sense.

    After all, “you can make anything fool proof, but you can’t make it damn fool proof,” as one of my old bosses once commented and 30 years later, I still largely agree him.

  2. whist i worked before my illness Health & Safety at Work Act at work was a joke making the job alot harder most of the times written reports on how to axcess escape routes did we realy need this much law

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