One of the many reasons cited for the extensive health and safety laws in this and many other western countries is that:

· Legal, Occupational requirements may be reinforced in civil law and/or criminal law, it is accepted that without the extra “encouragement” of potential regulatory action or litigation, many organizations would not act upon their implied moral obligations.

The effect of health & safety regulations impacts on all of us. The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 defines the structure for the encouragement, regulation and enforcement of workplace, health, safety and welfare within the United Kingdom. Since the 1950’s the International Labour Organization and the World Health Organization have shared a common definition of occupational health. Health and Safety is a cross-disciplinary area. The goal of occupational health & safety programmes is to provide safe working conditions and environments.

Historically the safety culture we live in today was mostly absent. Incidents like the Piper Alpha (oil-rig disaster) for example, after the initial enquiry a second phase enquiry made 106 recommendations for changes to North Sea safety procedures, all of which were accepted by the oil industry. One of the major changes saw the responsibility for enforcing safety in the North Sea from the Department of Energy to the Health and Safety Executive. The conflict of interest was obvious, (production and safety was driven by the same organisation).

A second example was the Kings Cross underground fire. It was initially difficult to explain, there had to be a proper forensic investigation which resulted in the discovery of a fluid flow phenomenon, (which is liquid and gas in motion) this eventually explained the terrible ferocity of the fire.

Today there is a consensus that the safety culture is a proactive stance towards a safer working environment. Both of those major incidents identified the effect of organisational, managerial and human factors on safety outcomes.

Detractors of health & safety regulations argue that the law sometimes punishes those who do the right thing. For example humps were put into the road to slow down traffic high density residential areas. They have been shown to slow down ambulances, increase pollution and proved a menace for disabled passengers; they also exasperate some drivers and are seen by some to cause more accidents than prevent them.

Whatever your thoughts on health & safety the law does save a lot of lives, and,for those of you who have experienced loss of livelihood through an accident at work then there are avenues open to you.

Barristers’ chambers give proactive advice and deal with health and safety work in many areas. Compensation claims from Health & Safety are frequently suitable cases in which to instruct barristers direct.

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