Jonathan Werran 30 May 2013

LGA brands new local health and safety code 'misleading'

Council chiefs have branded as ‘misleading’ Government claims that new health and safety inspection measures mean local authorities are banned from responding to concerns of local businesses and residents.

According to an announcement made yesterday by ministers, the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE’s) statutory national enforcement code for local authorities has effectively removed tens of thousands of businesses including most shops and offices from scrutiny by council inspection teams.

The code will focus council inspectors on higher risk activities on a pro-active basis, or where there have been tip-offs about workplaces which endanger employees.

‘There are too many examples of local councils imposing unnecessary burdens by inspecting low risk businesses,’ said employment minister Mark Hoban. ‘The new code should put a stop to this by putting common sense back into the system.’

But Cllr Mehboob Khan, chair of the Local Government Association’s safer and stronger communities board said: ‘The Government’s statement that councils will only be able to target proactive inspections from a national list of high risk activities or in response to intelligence about an individual business is misleading.

‘It creates the impression that they are able to ban councils from actions that may be in response to the needs of local businesses or general concerns from their residents. In reality this new code does not do this.’

According to Cllr Khan, the leader of Kirklees MBC, council environmental health teams are at the heart of efforts to give responsible local firms support and practical advice so as to encourage economic growth and avoid needless red tape.

‘We would also encourage open and frank discussions about any cases of councils creating unnecessary burdens on businesses that the Government have referenced,’ Cllr Khan continued.

‘The HSE created a ‘Challenge Panel’ to address this perceived issue almost eighteen months ago and it has only received one official complaint about a council.’

Judith Hackitt, chair of the HSE said the code sets out how targeting should be achieved, providing certainty for both businesses and regulators and the organisation would work with local authorities to ensure the code is successfully implemented.’

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