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Study to Weigh Easing of H&S Standards

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

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Do worker health and safety regulations help protect employees, hurt businesses—or perhaps both?

And could a lighter governmental touch achieve the same good?

That is what an upcoming study by the world’s largest professional health and safety organization aims to learn.

Fewer Regs, Same Benefits?

The UK-based Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has commissioned experts at The University of Nottingham to explore whether reducing regulation would help businesses prosper without harming the health and safety of their employees.

 Dr. Ragnar E. Löfstedt, professor of risk management at King’s College in London, has suggested simplifying some occupational health and safety standards
Dr. Ragnar E. Löfstedt, professor of risk management at King’s College in London, has suggested simplifying some occupational health and safety standards.

IOSH, a non-governmental organization, notes that health and safety regulations have become “a target for politicians and sections of the media.” That’s especially true in the United States, where election-year attacks on what critics call “job-killing regulations” have become heated.

Much of that criticism has focused on standards and enforcement by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Keeping it Simple

The IOSH study follows a 2011 review by Professor Ragnar Löfstedt that called for simplifying some regulations, advocated the use of clearer business guidance, and recommended some reconsideration of the concept of risk. Löfstedt is director of the King’s College Centre for Risk Management (KCRM) in London, which analyzes risk and risk policy in diverse settings.

The two-year study will be part of IOSH’s research program, called “Health and safety in a changing world.”

The study will assess the UK government’s response to Löfstedt’s review and its effect on practice at the workplace level. The analysis will examine the issue from “various stakeholder perspectives” and will map how such regulations evolve and play out in businesses and among occupational safety and health practitioners.

‘Realistic Approach’

“The project supports IOSH’s mission to champion a realistic approach to risk management, supporting employees and employers in minimizing the social and economic costs of death and injury at work,” said Professor Robert Dingwall, who directs the research program.

The regulatory issue is not a simple question of more or less, however, Dingwall notes. Even if a government requires less, for example, other parties with a stake in employee health and safety may require more.

 Dr. Robert Dingwall said the research will support “a realistic approach to risk management.”
Dr. Robert Dingwall said the research will support “a realistic approach to risk management.”

“There is a serious concern that the flexibility created by a lighter touch from public agencies will actually be lost in an expansion of private rules from other interested parties like insurance companies,” he says. “This project will help to tell us what is happening on the ground.”

‘More Coherent Understanding’

The study will be led by Dr. Stavroula Leka, from Nottingham University’s Institute of Work, Health & Organizations, and Dr. Aditya Jain, of the university’s business school. Both have extensive expertise in translating occupational health and safety issues into effective practice, IOSH said.

The study will encompass a wide range of viewpoints from academia, industry, government, trade unions and standards bodies in the UK and around Europe.

“Our goal is to achieve a more coherent understanding of the needs of today’s workplace and workforce,” said Leka. “This research will make a valuable contribution to all parties who are concerned with the promotion of a safe and healthy work environment.”

With more than 40,000 members in 85 countries, IOSH is the world’s biggest professional health and safety organization. The group, founded in 1945, sets standards and is a registered charity with international NGO status.


Tagged categories: Health and safety; OSHA; Regulations

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