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Justice Secretary Vows to Curb ‘Health and Safety’ Culture

Justice Secretary Vows to Curb ‘Health and Safety’ Culture

Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, will hear his new Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill 2014-5 debated in the House of Commons today (Monday, 21 July). The Justice Secretary’s stated aim with the bill is to ensure that employees who do “something dumb” and hurt themselves at work will no longer be awarded damages if their employers have taken sensible steps to keep staff safe.

Mr Grayling believes that society has become “too inclined to blame someone else” when something goes wrong, leading to a compensation culture that needs to be curbed. The Bill will protect people from being sued if something goes wrong when they try help in an emergency. It is also intended to give teachers confidence that they will not face legal action if they have taken reasonable safety steps when organising a school trip.

Employer’s Liability: Responsible businesses will benefit

The Justice Secretary further explained: “It is about trying to restore common sense to the kind of situations which happen all too often and very seldom get to court – where somebody has an accident at work, it’s entirely their own fault, they have got a perfectly responsible employer who has the normal health and safety procedures in place but that person does something dumb, hurts themselves and sues the employer anyway. For responsible small businesses it is a real headache and most of the time they just pay up because it is less hassle to do so. This is meant to be a big message to them because if you do the right thing, we are making sure that the balance of the law is in your favour.”

Message to trade unions

Under the measures contained in the Bill, a court deciding a negligence case will have to consider whether the defendant was acting for the benefit of society, had demonstrated a generally responsible approach to safety, or was trying to help in an emergency situation. Mr Grayling claimed that trade unions had “too much of an inclination to chase every opportunity” to win pay-outs for their members.

“My message to the trade unions would be we are fortunate in our society that we have some of the safest workplaces in the world – that’s clearly a good thing and we shouldn’t compromise on health and safety standards. We should certainly go after the people who are the health and safety rogues. But if we overdo the regulation and make people liable for things where common sense says they have got no responsibility then you just have fewer people in jobs and that can’t be right.”

Labour unimpressed

Shadow Commons leader Angela Eagle was unimpressed, saying: “On Monday we will be debating the pleasing-sounding but completely vacuous Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill. This is a five clause Bill which does something the last Labour government legislated for in 2006. When the Government could bring in a new law to guarantee rights for victims of crime or deal with the meltdown in probation or tackle the prisons crisis, can you tell us why you are wasting time with this PR exercise?”

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