A few days have passed since Professor Lofstedt issued his report and as you might expect, strong opinions have been voiced both for and against the recommendations.
Lofstedt did of course broadly support the current legislation. As far as I can see, most of the existing law will not be the subject of change, or at least, any significant change that will alter the advice I currently give to my clients.
By far the most interesting issue raised is the review of the concept of strict liability in the legislation. For a long time, this has been the concept I have found hardest to explain to my clients. Put very simply, in the case of work equipment failure, strict liability excludes considerations such as foreseeability or the quality of the system of maintenance. The mere occurrence of the failure causes a breach of the legislation.
The UK Government decided, doubtless with the right intentions to improve workplace health and safety, at the time of implementing the EU Directives that they would “gold-plate” the legislation in this way. But it does now seem that there is an appetite in the UK to reclaim the concepts of reasonableness and foreseeability in a health and safety context. Many of my clients would welcome that common sense approach.
On November 30, 2011