Removing forms and record keeping requirements
Summary of consultation results and outcome
- In Autumn 2008, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) consulted on proposals to remove several outdated form filling requirements that applied to most businesses operating from a factory, office or shop in Great Britain. The requirements covered two areas:
- premises notification - employers were required to complete a form for any premises where employees work and send it to HSE or their local authority; and
- the general register - factory employers were required to keep a set of records called the ‘general register’. Its original purpose was to record compliance with specific Factories Act requirements.
- Enforcing authorities have long used a range of alternative information sources and strategies to obtain intelligence on business premises. The general register is obsolete, having been overtaken by more modern health and safety legislation.
- The consultation revealed strong support for the proposals, with over 94% of respondents supporting abolition of the requirements.
- At its meeting on 17 December 2008, the HSE Board agreed to recommend amending regulations to the Government. These regulations implement the proposals in full by amending the Factories Act 1961 and the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act 1963. Subject to Government scrutiny, the changes will come into force on 6 April 2009.
- This contributes to the simplification of health and safety legislation, without loss of health and safety protection, and saves employers’ time and money.
- In parallel to removing the premises notification requirements, HSE is developing and implementing a variety of approaches to make better use of intelligence in targeting dutyholders. These include data sharing agreements between HSE and local authorities. Additionally, the Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LG Regulation) has agreed to encourage the sharing of good practice among local authorities, particularly the exchange of premises data across regimes (eg business rating information). This good practice is already in use in a number of local authorities.
- A short summary of the consultation results follows.
Consultation results summary
- The Consultative Document was published on 7 August, detailing HSE’s preferred option, ie repealing the premises notification and general register requirements entirely.
- HSE specifically invited its key stakeholders, and others identified as having a potential interest, to take part - 718 in total. This included all 410 local authorities in Great Britain. Additionally, around 45,000 subscribers to HSE’s weekly update email service were alerted.
- A total of 265 responses were received. No significant new issues were raised.
- Overall, there was strong support for the proposals:
- 94% in favour of abolishing the factories, offices and shops notification requirements (ie forms F9 and OSR1);
- 97% in favour of abolishing the railway premises notification requirement (ie form OSR7);
- 96% in favour of abolishing the general register requirement (ie forms F31, F32, F34, F35 and F36).
- Of 125 responses from employers and industry associations, 97% agreed with the proposals. This included the Confederation of British Industry and the EEF (the manufacturers’ association). No adverse impacts for small businesses were identified.
- The Trades Union Congress and UNISON were broadly content with the proposals.
- Early informal consultation had revealed that some local authorities would like to keep or even expand the premises notification requirement for offices and shops. They considered it remained a useful enforcement tool.
- All local authorities in Great Britain were invited to take part in the consultation. However, only 24 responses were received, 15 of which agreed to removal of the requirement.
- All but two of the local authority responses were from individual Environmental Health Officers. The exceptions were submitted by regional health and safety groups: one in favour of removal (Sussex Health and Safety Liaison Group – 13 LAs) and one against (South East Wales Health and Safety Task Group – 9 LAs). The Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LG Regulation) also supported removal.
- Consultation process - To allow for the summer holiday period, the consultation was open for 14 weeks, rather than the usual 12. Around 67% of respondents thought the CD represented the different policy issues well and 31% considered it adequate. Many respondents commented that the CD represented the policy proposals clearly and that the response form was easy to complete. A number of respondents had not completed ‘on-line’ consultation questionnaires before and found this method easier and quicker. Those who disliked the consultation (2%) felt that it should have detailed more options or simply reiterated their opposition to the proposals.