Deregulation Act Health and Safety issues

The much talked about Deregulation Bill has now been passed into an Act of Parliament coming into force from 26th March.

The aim of the Deregulation Act 2015 is to reduce the legislative and regulatory burdens affecting businesses, organisations and individuals, as well as repealing legislation that no longer has practical use. The Act covers a wide range of topics; here is a roundup of the sections that relate to health and safety:

Section 1 Health and safety at work: general duty of self-employed persons

This controversial section has been subject to much debate and was amended at the eleventh hour (see ‘Government’s u-turn on Deregulation Bill will inevitably cause confusion for self-employed’ in March’s Health and Safety Newsletter).

Amends Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, which places a general duty on employers and the self-employed to conduct their business in a way that ensures, as far as is reasonably practicable, that they and persons (other than their employees) are not exposed to risks to their health or safety.

The amendment limits the scope of this general duty on self-employed persons, by applying the duty to those self-employed persons carrying out certain activities on a prescribed list, rather than all those who are self-employed. This has the effect of exempting self-employed persons who are not covered by the prescribed list, from this duty.

This has been a cause of great contention in Parliament and subject to a last-minute amendment by Government Whip Lord Wallace of Saltaire, the Secretary of State will have the power to make Regulations under clause 1 of the Act to bring other self-employed persons within the scope of the general duty. Any Regulations made must specify that all self-employed people, whose work poses a risk to others would retain their duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act. Any Regulations must also be approved by both houses of Parliament.

Section 6 and 7 Requirements to wear safety helmets: exemption for Sikhs

The exemption for turban wearing Sikhs from wearing a safety helmet is extended from construction sites to all workplaces (except in urgent response to hazardous situations such as fire or riots, or if the individual is a member of Her Majesty’s Forces and taking part in a military operation). This therefore includes visitors to a workplace as well as workers.

Schedule 10 Regulation of the use of roads and railways

Amends Part 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 relating to the duration of a driving licence granted to drivers with relevant disabilities. It provides that the Secretary of State may determine the duration of the licence, which shall be a period

a) of a maximum of 10 years and a minimum of 1 year ending on or before the licence

holder’s 70th birthday, or

b) a maximum of 3 years and minimum of 1 year where there are less than three years before the licence holder’s 70th birthday or where the licence is granted on or after that birthday.

Places a requirement on the Secretary of State to designate premises, provide and maintain stations and equipment where goods vehicles can be examined.

Schedule 21 Poisons and explosives precursors

Abolishes the Poisons Board and amends the Poisons Act 1972 to establish a cohesive licensing regime relating to certain poisons and explosives precursors.

The Regulations establish a licensing regime concerning the availability, possession and use of regulated and reportable substances that could be misused for criminal purposes.

For further information also see the following pieces of law which sit alongside Schedule 21:

  • the Deregulation Act 2015 (Poisons and Explosives Precursors) (Consequential Amendments, Revocations and Transitional Provisions) Order 2015 (SI 2015/968); and
  • the Control of Poisons and Explosives Precursors Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/966).