New Health and Safety Reforms in the Pipeline
Like many other areas of everyday life, health and safety courses is bogged down in red tape, making it very difficult sometimes for people who think they have spotted an infringement of the law to be either sure of their facts or clear in where to go to report it. Because many people err on the side of caution, many reports are being received that cause a lot of problems for well-meaning individuals who had thought that they were exempt from health and safety legislation as volunteers. The latest government announcement that they are planning to simplify the whole process has been warmly welcomed across the country. The Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, said that the move ‘is aimed at removing the bureaucracy that sometimes deters people from volunteering and carrying out good deeds’ as well as giving greater protection for responsible employers and do-gooders who end up being involved in liability claims.
The blame culture is largely to blame!
Many people are withdrawing from volunteer positions through fears of litigation for liability; this number is estimated at almost half those who volunteer have either already stopped doing it or plan to shortly. The new laws will also clarify how to assess ‘blame’ – many small employers are being unjustly penalised by employees who are injured through their own negligence but who then turn on their employers and blame them for injuries incurred. Where employers have taken proper steps to train employees in health and safety issues and the use of appropriate equipment, it will be less easy for the staff concerned to sue employers if things go wrong – although an employer is often automatically considered to be to blame, this is by far from the case.
Good Samaritans should be protected
Many people fear that doing the simplest thing to help someone in extremis may rebound on them and it is stopping many small random acts of kindness which makes everyday life so rewarding. Although it is the first thought of most people to help if they see someone injured or in trouble, sadly the litigious climate of today often makes them stop and think, because they may find themselves on the receiving end of a writ for damages if they inadvertently do the wrong thing. A good idea for everyone who is likely to help out either ad hoc or as a volunteer for a charity or other body would be a basic first aid course along with a training course on essential health and safety legislation. Anyone with this training, which must be kept up to date by top up sessions at regular intervals, would find themselves in a much stronger position if someone did bring an action against them for personal injury following an incident when they were volunteering for a charity, at an event or simply as a kind-hearted passer-by when someone needed assistance.