IT SEEMS obvious for an insurer to say this, but health and safety matters. It saves many lives every year. It provides insurers and brokers with a reference point from which risk management strategies can be developed. At the same time, there has been misinterpretation and misapplication of health and safety law – and this had led to a great deal of negativity surrounding something which has many positive aspects. We’re all used to reading of children unable to play conkers, charity events being cancelled and first-aiders prevented from giving assistance, all because of fear of injury and subsequent litigation.

The government’s recent plans to reform health and safety laws, based on Lord Young’s review, have been monitored closely. We understand the need to simplify and, in some cases, cut red tape, but this must be done without lessening standards.

What we do agree with is that a more common sense approach is needed to help the economy and reduce bureaucracy. But we also need to raise awareness that insurers play a vital, enabling role. There is a myth out there that insurers are “blockers” – but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

The government’s new strategy says that responsible employers will no longer face automatic health and safety inspections. This will reduce the number of inspections in the UK by at least a third. Instead, high-risk locations, such as major energy sites or rogue employers, will be targeted.

While this has practical appeal, insurers will continue to provide their customers with guidance where necessary – indeed, there may be even greater need as the Health and Safety Executive looks to others to become involved. What matters is that this is provided by someone competent – not just a tick-box exercise.

The introduction of a register of health and safety consultants will stop less qualified consultants conducting inspections, and we are contributing to the development of a potential code of practice for insurers in making decisions about health and safety. However, this will be no easy task, given the diversity of businesses in the UK.

The Department for Work and Pensions is looking closely at health and safety law and Professor Ragnar Lofstedt has been tasked with the review. Everyone – whether City office, services business, shop, manufacturing business or something else – should be watching this one closely.

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