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A proposal to reopen an historic promenade paddling pool is under threat as Wirral Council says that £350,000 should be provided to cover the costs of safety inspections for the next 100 years. The pool has been left empty for the last 30 years and vandalised. So now in a triumph for health and safety this situation is set to continue.

These sort of instances take place constantly around the country so the Prime Minister is right in his ambition to bring the situation under control.

The Government's Red Tape Challenge website includes the following comment from Andy Lucas:

I have been a H&S regulator for over 20 yrs using the full range of regulatory powers. I have experience of fatal accident investigation, conducting hs audits of large multisite businesses as well as small businesses and prosecuting poor performing or negligent businesses.

There is no doubt in my mind that the raft of regulations that we currently use makes it confusing and difficult for both regulators and businesses alike – especially small businesses. I have every sympathy for the smaller businesses that struggle to understand what is required of them given the overly complicated system that we have at present.

Where did it all go wrong?? The answer is clearly the introduction of the 6 pack in 1992. Much of these regulations unnecessarily duplicated the general provisions of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 not to mention, duplicating themselves. Overnight regulation became awkward with common themes of competency, risk assessment and maintenance marbled through most of the new regulations. It would have been far more sensible to have considered all new regulations together to ensure there was little cross over. For example the H&S at W etc Act deals with training, so do most of the 6 pack.

The process of risk assessment has become an unnecessarily overly burdensome tool that is simply misunderstood. Mainly due to the fact that private hs consultants make it so. Risk assessment should remain the back bone of the h&s management process, but underpinned with consistent advice and guidance. We are certainly moving towards this with HSE’s simplified risk assessments available on line.

It is my firm belief that we have lost the plot. There needs to be a return to self regulation supported by a much reduced set of regulations underpinned by approved guidance. The benefit being, there is less chance that poorly drafted legislation remains unchanged. This will provide flexibility so that legislation can evolve as the industrial landscape changes.

It was the "six pack" which brought in all the box tickers touring offices to ask about the seating arrangements, the space between desks, putting up little notices to say water fro the hot tap was hot, etc, etc.

There is a lucrative health and safety industry that has a huge vested interest in the regulations being as extensive and complicated as possible.

Here is the pitch to firms from Award Health & Safety Ltd:

The Six Pack is explained below. When you realise how long it takes you to simply READ whether you are compliant you can see the wisdom of bringing in an expert to check your compliance for you!

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health is the trade union for health and safety jobsworths. They have huge indirect subsidy from the taxpayer as their "commercial trading" arm which puts on "training" conferences frequently for the public sector and made a £2.6 million profit last year. Of course the ISOH is not going to back cutting red tape – anymore than turkeys would vote for Christmas.

Naturally the Lib Dems being illiberal would like to see more nannying regulations.

So David Cameron has a fight on his hands. But it is key if strong economic growth is to be restored. Incidentally if we are richer that tends to make us genuinely healthier and safer.

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