The House of Lords has voted in favour of Government plans contained in the Deregulation Bill to exempt certain self-employed workers from health and safety law.
The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has been lobbying against Clause One of the Bill, citing concerns that the exemption could lead to confusion, a decline in standards and an increase in the risk of injury or illness at work. Peers voted 253 to 175 in favour of the exemption.
Richard Jones, head of policy and public affairs at IOSH, said: “IOSH is very disappointed that the Lords do not seem to have understood the serious problems that this misguided and unnecessary exemption would cause and have not voted for its removal. We will need to redouble our efforts in making the case for its removal as the Bill continues its journey through Parliament.”
IOSH's view has been supported by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), with Hugh Robertson, senior policy officer for health and safety, commenting: “It is incredible that the Lords managed to ignore all the clear evidence that this clause would make the workplace a less safe place, would increase confusion, and was not what had originally been proposed by Professor Lofstedt in his report. The TUC will continue to strongly oppose this measure as it continues its way through the Parliamentary process.”
Lord McKenzie of Luton, shadow communities and local Government spokesperson, tabled an amendment for the removal of Clause One from the Bill, and praised the impact of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974: “We have a first-class health and safety system in the UK. We should be alarmed at what is now proposed. After 40 years of progress we see the Government trying to unravel part of the health and safety system. We should resist Clause One and strike it from the Bill.”
As it currently stands, the Deregulation Bill will amend health and safety law to exempt certain self-employed from the general health and safety duty for themselves and non-employees, except if carrying out “prescribed activities”. Such activities include high hazard or high risk sector activities, such as agriculture and construction. But many self-employed who may pose a risk to others will be exempt.
This goes against the Lofstedt recommendation, which proposed exempting only those self-employed whose “work activities pose no potential risk of harm to others”.