Health and safety inspections to be scrapped for low risk businesses

Hundreds of thousands of businesses will no longer face health and safety inspections under plans announced by the Government.

Only businesses deemed to be operating in 'high risk areas', such as construction sites and those with poor safety records, will have to continue with inspections, while shops, offices, pubs and clubs will be spared.

It said the changes due to come into force from April 2013 will save companies millions of pounds and help spur economic growth and innovation in the UK.

Business secretary Vince Cable said: "In these tough times, businesses need to focus all their energies on creating jobs and growth, not being tied up in unnecessary red tape."

Up to 3,000 regulations will also be abandoned or overhauled in an attempt to put the 'common sense' back into health and safety, said business minister Michael Fallon.

Some 6,500 regulations are to be reviewed under the Red Tape Challenge process, with the aim of abolishing or simplifying 3,000 of these by December 2013.

Changes to regulations next month also mean that businesses will only be liable for civil damages in health and safety cases if they are deemed to have acted negligently. The Government said the new legislation will protect businesses from 'compensation culture' claims.

Welcoming the move to reduce the number of health and safety inspections, head of regulatory policy at the Institute of Directors (IoD) Alexander Ehmann said: "Removing the headache of health and safety inspections for low-risk businesses is a step change."

"Scrapping unnecessary and unpredictable inspections is a valuable piece of deregulation and the Government are to be congratulated for taking such bold and decisive action on behalf of Britain's businesses."

Director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), Adam Marshall, also welcomed the move, saying: "These measures mean that law-abiding, low-risk businesses can live without the constant threat of time-consuming and costly inspections. It's a sensible change whose time has come."

However, various trade unions including the Trade Union Congress (TUC) voiced concern that the new rules will put millions of workers at risk.

In a statement the TUC said that health and safety was not a 'burden' on businesses, but a 'basic protection for workers.'