Industry eye

I can’t remember the last time I wore a floor-length skirt to work, but apparently they are a trip hazard if worn on an exhibition stand – or so I was once informed by a lengthy risk assessment sheet from a certain construction organisation. “Bureaucracy gone mad!” I wanted to scream, like the Daily Mail.

It’s madness like this that has come under scrutiny in a recent review of health and safety legislation by risk management specialist Professor Ragnar Löfstedt. Part of the Government’s Red Tape Challenge, the original aim of the review was to work out whether some of the 200 regulations and 53 associated Approved Codes of Practice (ACoPs) could be combined, simplified or reduced.

Some in construction feared the prospect of slimmed down regulations, concerned it could reverse all the good work done in the sector on health and safety over recent decades. But Löfstedt, who is professor of risk management at Kings College London, decided that the problems lie not with the regulations, but with how they are being interpreted.

One big generator of paperwork is the lengthy ACoP which accompanies the Construction (Design and Management) 2007 regulations. This should get a makeover so that small businesses can actually understand it, says Löfstedt, who recommends that all ACoPs be reviewed by June this year.

A handful of regulations would get the immediate chop, says Löfstedt, who visited two construction sites with inspectors as part of his research. Among them the Notification of Tower Cranes Regulations 2010 and the Notification of Conventional Tower Cranes (Amendment) Regulations 2010 which the professor says were brought in to reassure the public after the spate of accidents but have shown no quantifiable benefits at all.

Löfstedt tackles the issues behind that long risk list prepared by the construction organisation. It turns out this isn’t down to jobsworths but to insurance companies requiring businesses to create and keep all manner of records in case of civil litigation. Löfstedt suggests how this situation could be tackled.

Let’s hope that the government acts on Löfstedt’s recommendations. Because it’s not the ridiculous risk assessments that are really the problem, it’s the perception they create that anything related to health and safety is slightly bonkers and a waste of time. And that is the last thing we want.

This article has been written for Industry Image by Kristina Smith, who is a freelance construction writer and editor.