FLJS Policy Brief recommends leniency in Health and Safety regulation

17 January 2012

The Foundation for Law, Justice and Society today publishes a policy brief that encourages regulators to take measured risks and adopt a more lenient, evidence-based approach to risk management in health and safety regulation.

The policy brief by Dr Sweta Chakraborty from Oxford University's Centre for Socio-Legal Studies provides a review of the current debate over health and safety policy that has seen Health Secretary Andrew Lansley call for a review of regulation of the cosmetic service industry in the row over PIP breast implants, and the Prime Minister’s recent pledge to "tackle the health and safety monster"€.

"The policy brief provides a review of the current debate over health and safety policy that has seen the Prime Minister's recent pledge to "€œtackle the health and safety monster"€.

Summarizing the views of key stakeholders from academia, regulators, government and the law, Dr Chakraborty makes the case for the consolidation of risk and hazard categorization across the EU through a more evidence-based approach.

The policy brief emerges from a panel discussion held at Wolfson College in October featuring representatives from the Health and Safety Executive and the British Safety Council, as well as leading UK health and safety lawyers and Ragnar Lostedt, director of the Kings Centre for Risk Management, KCL, whose recommendations made in the Lofstedt Report, 'Reclaiming Health and Saftey for all', were adopted by the government in November.

Whilst political pressures on regulators to protect society at all costs have resulted in a predominance of hazard over risk classification of products and activities, the policy brief argues that such an approach can result in the misallocation of resources and create unintended risks. Instead, it recommends the classification of products and activities as risks rather than hazards, and reducing or managing risk by controlling or reducing exposure to hazard.

Dr Chakraborty outlines the necessary efforts to ensure public support for the proposals, which include the role of the courts in distinguishing between risk and hazard, and the role of effective public communication of the changes, through education, workplace leadership, and a balanced representation of the debate in the media.

The policy brief is published as part of the Foundation for Law, Justice and Society’s programme on Regulation, Regulators and the Crisis of Law and Government€™, which aims to shed light on the recent failures of regulators and examine ways to improve the accountability and effectiveness of the regulatory system.

The Risk Versus Hazard Debate: Reconciling Inconsistencies in Health and Safety Regulation within the UK and across the EU
Dr Sweta Chakraborty, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, Oxford