Self-employed to be exempt from health and safety law?

The public consultation on proposals to exempt some self-employed people from health and safety legislation has opened (2nd August 2012). The consultation comes about from the recommendations from Professor Löfstedt’s report “Reclaiming health and safety for all: an independent review of health and safety legislation”. The move is to exempt those self-employed people whose work poses no potential risk of harm to others from health and safety law.

In practice the actual burden on such self-employed people from the law is not significant and the actual probability of the law being enforced on such businesses is low, however, the report from Professor Löfstedt states that the change will help to reduce the perception that health and safety law is inappropriately applied.

The proposed change will not exempt those self-employed persons whose work activities do pose a potential risk of harm to others or whose business employs others. So this change, if it goes through, will not affect businesses such as those in construction, service & maintenance, those working with the public that have a potential risk to the public e.g. window cleaners and so on.

So who are the 1 million people that this proposed change may affect? It will only remove the legal burden of health and safety law from those people who have no potential risk of harm to others so this in the main includes homeworkers completing only office based activities possibly including management consultants, accountants etc. The consultation document makes it clear that the exemption will only apply to those self-employed persons who pose no potential risk of harm to others at any time during their work activities and so avoiding possible confusion with some businesses that may at sometimes pose no risk while at other times doing so.

If you would like to comment on the proposal which closes on the 28th October please see the HSE website (www.hse.gov.uk).