We have come to expect the coalition government to be hell bent on a crusade to reduce worker safety, fuelled by a spurious political dogma that a reduction in the regulatory burden will unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of British industry, thus solving all our economic woes at a stroke – and the Queen’s Speech on 8th May didn’t disappoint…
In the Orwellian world of government and insurance industry spin doctoring – where bad news is presented as good news and backwards steps are trumpeted as progress – here is what a supine UK media reported this week:
” The self-employed will be exempt from health and safety rules. People who work for themselves will no longer have to worry about onerous health and safety rules. Measures in the Queen’s Speech will exempt from health and safety laws those self-employed whose work activities pose no potential risk of harm to others”.
“The changes are the latest assault by the Coalition on health and safety which ministers say are strangling small firms with red tape.They come after Downing Street adviser Lord Young of Graffham published recommendations to restore commonsense to the culture of health and safety in 2010”.
Clearly the Telegraph thinks that ‘being exempt from health and safety rules’ and ‘not having to worry about health and safety’ is a good thing. Really? The notion that if you don’t worry about something it won’t happen is infantile nonsense, but it’s good enough for the Telegraph to swallow without comment.
Lord Young actually said that the Compensation Culture was a myth and a figment of the tabloid press. Did Mr Cameron take any notice Lord Young’s key finding? Well no, of course because if he did the entire house of cards that is his anti-health and safety policy, would come tumbling down. Not only did the government ignore Lord Yong’s findings, they also cherry-picked Professor Lofstedt’s report to underpin their war on worker safety. Thus the key findings of two major reports on health and safety regulations that didn’t support their political dogma were consigned to the dustbin.
Instead the government chose to embrace the vitriolic anti-accident victim PR spun by the insurance industry and now we find ourselves in a deregulatory environment shaped by the business objectives of major financial institutions.
“Describing the changes in a new Deregulation Bill the Queen said: “A Bill will be introduced to reduce the burden of excessive regulation on businesses.”
The Government said the legislation was aimed a removing or cutting back burdens on businesses and public bodies – especially the duty to pay fair compensation to accident victims and their families.
The Daily Mail
“Cutting bills and tearing up health and safety laws to help businesses grow. With the economy still not out of the woods, the government promised a fresh raft of measures designed to encourage businesses to expand. The Deregulation Bill will curb the impact of regulators and watchdogs, stopping them from interfering if their actions will hamper growth. Self-employed workers will be exempt from health and safety laws, provided their work possesses no harm to others”.
True to form, The Daily Mail chooses its words very carefully to make its point that the government is fighting against a rising tide of red tape, compensation claim scroungers and ‘namby pamby’ health and safety busybodies…. ‘ Tearing up health and safety laws’ ; ‘ Curb the impact of regulators and watchdogs, stopping them from interfering’…
Dave and Vince will love the macho image fostered by this type of fawning journalism and we will witness yet another nail in the coffin of worker protection and public safety if, or rather when, the Deregulation Bill goes through.
“A Deregulation Bill will aim to reduce the burden of excessive red tape on business, public bodies and individuals by repealing legislation that is no longer of practical use, and placing a duty on regulators to have regard to the impact of their actions on growth.
Self-employed people whose work activities pose no potential risk of harm to others will be exempted from health and safety law”.
What are we to do when a news agency reports one side of an argument only? The British public is being fed the lie that health and safety legislation is a major burden on industry and that if the economy is to thrive the regulators responsible for ensuring compliance with the legislation have to think about the negative impact of their actions on the very businesses they are supposed to be regulating.
“In a series of measures geared to breathe life into Britain’s flagging economy, self-employed workers are to be made exempt from health and safety laws”.
Let’s just ponder the logic in that statement:
We exempt the self-employed from health and safety laws and the flagging economy will burst into life. Hmm… So a self-employed worker is injured in an accident at work and is prevented from earning a living and this will somehow breathe life into Britain’s flagging economy???
Announcement on Mesothelioma
The Mesothelioma Bill in the Queen’s Speech 8 May 2013 provides for a payment to sufferers of the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma, from an insurer-funded scheme in cases where negligent exposure to asbestos is proved but the insurer of a defunct company cannot be traced.
Some personal injury law firms have chosen to welcome this announcement, but we incline to the views of victim support groups and unions such as UCATT. In a statement, UCATT said “victims of asbestos-related lung cancer and other fatal conditions who cannot trace their insurer will receive nothing”.
Steve Murphy, general secretary of UCATT commented:
“This watered down scheme which denies compensation to many victims and slashes compensation to those who qualify, demonstrates that the Conservatives are in the pocket of the insurance industry.”
Asbestosis Victim Support Group Network:
“What appears to be a great deal brokered by government, and costing the insurance industry a small fortune, is in reality something entirely different”.
“This scheme excludes 50% of asbestos victims, pays ‘average’ compensation only to victims dying from the cancer mesothelioma and then slashes average compensation by 30%. This scheme is not what we expected”.
“It was presented as a fait accompli to asbestos victims and saves the insurance industry a small fortune at huge cost to asbestos victims. The Bill needs to be unpicked and repackaged if the victims’ best interests are going to be truly at its heart.”
So there we have it. The government’s health and safety legislative programme, writ large and laid bare…and it’s not a pretty sight.
We expected no more, but unfortunately we can only look forward to worse as the insurance industry tightens its grip on coalition ‘thinking’ and continues to successfully marginalise accident victims and their legal representatives.
The legislation designed to keep UK workers and the general public safe is being systematically dismantled before our eyes and barriers are being created to prevent injured people seeking access to justice and fair compensation.
Queen Victoria wouldn’t be amused, we think.
Written by Andy Thorogood, Business Development Manager,Bonnar Accident Law.