British Safety Council responds to a "packed Queen's Speech"

The government's proposals for workers' rights must not come at the expense of health and safety says British Safety Council

The British Safety Council has responded to the new government’s legislative programme and pledged to work with the government to protect and enhance workers’ rights, reform the regulatory regime for building safety and improve air quality.

The Queen’s speech includes over thirty new bills in a packed legislative programme. A new Employment Bill will be introduced to improve workers’ rights and to promote fairness in the workplace. The government has also pledged to strike “the right balance between the flexibility that the economy needs and the security that workers deserve”. A new single enforcement body will be created to offer greater protections to workers, according to the government.

A new Building Safety Bill will put in place a new regulatory regime for building safety and construction products and a new Fire Safety Bill will implement the relevant recommendations of the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry Phase 1 Report. The government has said that this will ensure that the lessons from the Grenfell Tower fire are learnt and will “deliver meaningful change to ensure an appalling tragedy like Grenfell can never happen again”.

A new Environment Bill will bring in legally-binding targets to reduce fine particulate matter (PM2.5), the most damaging pollutant to human health.

Speaking about the Employment Bill, the chief executive of the British Safety Council, Mike Robinson, said: “I welcome the government’s promise to enhance workers’ rights, but we will have to see the detail of the Employment Bill. Balancing flexibility in the economy cannot be at the expense of protecting workers’ health, safety and wellbeing. The British Safety Council will be working with partners in our sector to ensure that there is not a drive for deregulation for deregulation’s sake. In fact, we will be making the case for effective health and safety management as central to thriving, profitable organisations.”

The British Safety is in conversation with other organisations with and interest in health and safety including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), the Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (IOSH) and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) to consider how they can work together in the new parliament. Mike Robinson also welcomed measures around building and fire safety.

Commenting on the new Environment Bill he said:  “I hope the government can pick up where it left off on air pollution, and implement ambitious, binding targets for levels of particulate matter. In 2020 we will be building on our Time to Breathe campaign to recognise the impact of air pollution on outdoor workers and pushing the government to adopt the World Health Organisation target on PM2.5.”

The British Safety Council is in conversation with other organisations with an interest in health and safety including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), the Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (IOSH) and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health to consider how they can work together in the new parliament.

Concluding his remarks Mike said: “This is a packed agenda and 2020 is clearly going to be a busy year for our sector – we will be working with partners, members and politicians from all parties to push our priorities and to ensure that no-one is injured or made ill through their work. I look forward to getting stuck in after Christmas – and take this opportunity to extend to you all my best wishes for a very Happy Christmas!”