Chris Grayling, the Justice Minister, addresses Conservative conference. Photo: Conservative Party
Heroism Bill: Blaming the workers continues
This Government is set to propose further changes to liability claims in England and Wales in the Queen’s speech. Chris Grayling, the Justice Minister, and former health and safety minister, has said he planned to strip the red tape from “Britain’s health and safety culture”, giving greater protection for responsible employers and do-gooders who end up being involved in liability claims.
It is likely that this will be the so-called “Heroism Bill” that has been flaunted to make it clear that health and safety laws do not apply to those who rush in to save others but it is being spun as being much wider. Firstly the Government claims that the move is aimed at removing the bureaucracy that sometimes deters people from volunteering and carrying out good deeds, despite the complete lack of evidence that this is nothing more than a perception with no evidence that there is any real problem. However it goes much further than this.
Statements attributed to Grayling in the press say that the measures “will put the law more clearly on the side of employers who do the right thing to protect employees if something does go wrong through no fault of their own.” They will also “provide greater protection to small business owners who face challenges from irresponsible employees even if they have taken a responsible approach to safety training and procedures.”
According to the Ministry of Justice, the law would be changed so that judges will have to give weight to factors when deciding negligence cases, including whether someone was doing a good deed like volunteering, or if they were acting responsibly.
Grayling is quoted as saying:
“I don’t want us to be a society where people feel that they can’t do the right thing for fear of breaking regulations or becoming liable if something goes wrong.”I don’t want us to be a society where a responsible employer gets the blame for someone doing something stupid. I want a society where common sense is the order of the day, and I believe this measure will help us get there.”
Of course this is complete gobbledygook. There is not a shred of evidence that there is a problem. The police, fire and ambulance unions have worked closely with their employers and the HSE to develop guidance which ensures that health and safety protection is compatible with emergency situations, which is why the Government changed its mind about exempting the police from the Health and Safety at Work Act (the one mention of health and safety in the Coalition agreement). Also There is not case of anyone being prosecuted for trying to save someone in an emergency situation.
There is however the possibility that this Bill will have a much more sinister application, which is shifting the blame to workers when they are injured, with employers claiming the worker was acting “irresponsibly”.
If that is the case, this is not a “Heroism Bill, it is a “Blame Bill”.