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Move to cut safety “Red Tape” hitting small businesses

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is launching an initiative to reduce health and safety “red tape” that can hinder small and medium-sized businesses.

Many such companies face unnecessary problems in securing contracts because of the wide variety of schemes being used by clients or training providers wanting proof they can meet health and safety standards.

Following a report from its National Occupational Safety and Health Committee, RoSPA is calling for a more uniform approach which would mean less paperwork, more efficiency and better help for companies that need to raise standards.

The report has already been sent to the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform in response to the Better Regulation Executive's call for evidence on how to improve health and safety performance in small “low risk” firms.

Roger Bibbings, RoSPA Occupational Safety Adviser, said: “The multitude of assessment, compliance and pre-qualification schemes means businesses that are applying for contracts have to be repeatedly filling in forms to meet the different requirements of each scheme.

“Many of the schemes are of high quality, but few involve any mutual recognition. Some don't even realise that others exist. That means duplication of effort and wasted resources when businesses could be using time more profitably.”

The committee's steering group – chaired by Paul Reeve, Health, Safety and Environment Adviser to the Electrical Contractors Association – is carrying out an 18-month inquiry into ways of helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). It believes the bureaucracy involved in contract pre-qualification could be reduced greatly and is holding a meeting with interested parties on January 30 to examine ways of doing this.

It will consider how to introduce common criteria for the schemes, allowing them to become more interchangeable so that once competence has been proved under one system it will be recognised by a business using another.

The steering group also thinks SMEs that fail to qualify under these schemes need easier access to health and safety information to help them comply without making excessive and costly responses to their legal duties.

“Hundreds of thousands of businesses have to submit to scrutiny by these schemes which can bring real added health and safety value if we can get the approach right,” Roger Bibbings said.

See: www.rospa.com/occupationalsafety/sme/

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