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Take the Red Tape Challenge

John Freeman
Bemused by bureaucracy but worried that removing rules will simply let business and government play fast and loose with people's rights to a decent working environment? Then you might be interested to know that both the Government and the Health and Safety Executive are calling for people in the North West to give their thoughts on red tape.

The Red Tape Challenge is seeking views about regulations from the public, business and others like industry bodies and volunteers. The contributions to the Challenge will draw on the experience and ideas of those businesses and members of the public who deal with regulation every day.

Health and safety regulation is one of six cross-cutting themes on the Red Tape Challenge website and the public will be able to give comments on health and safety throughout the whole of the Red Tape Challenge campaign. But, from 30th June 2011 there will be a special three-week focus on health and safety regulation to encourage people to get involved and have their say.

Already under the spotlight were Road transportation, hospitality, food and drink and retail with other areas such as Media and creative services, the Environment, Utilities and energy just some of the other topics to be covered later in the year.

Quite coincidentally, the consultation comes just as the HSE releases new official figures which show the number of workers killed in the North West has increased and provisional data for the year April 2010 to March 2011 shows the number of workers killed nationally was 171, an increase on the previous year, when 147 died – the lowest number on record.

There were a total of 23 workplace deaths in 2010/11, compared to 17 in the previous year in the North West.

Comments received for the Red Tape Challenge will provide the Government with a clear picture of how regulations are perceived and will help them decide which regulations should stay, which change, and which go entirely.

“The Red Tape Challenge is an ideal opportunity for people to give their views on health and safety regulation and we hope people get involved in the debate," feels Geoffrey Podger, HSE’s Chief Executive. “The Health and Safety Executive is committed to protecting people from genuine risk and ensuring businesses don’t face unnecessary bureaucracy.

“This is a genuine consultation which will capture the views of people who are affected by health and safety regulations. We want to hear from all those with an interest with the aim of simplifying health and safety and making it more effective and proportionate for the benefit of business and the workforce of Britain.”

All health and safety regulations will be available for comment on the site, under the following four areas: general health and safety, major hazard industries, higher risk workplaces and dealing with hazardous chemicals and materials.

Commenting on the national rise in worker deaths, which show the rate of fatal injury is now 0.6 per 100,000 workers, up from 0.5 per 100,000 workers the previous year, Judith Hackitt, the HSE Chair, said the increase in the number of deaths in the last year is disappointing, after an all time low last year.

"However, we must remember that we still have one of the lowest rates of fatal injury anywhere in Europe," she notes.

“The fact that 171 people failed to come home from work to their loved ones last year reminds us all of what we are here to do. It is a stark reminder of the need to ensure that health and safety remains focused on the real risks, which exist in workplaces not on trivia and pointless paperwork.

“We all have a role to play - employers, employees and regulators - and leadership is fundamental to maintaining and improving our performance even further. In a world of work which is constantly changing we must all continue to review what we do and how we do it and strive to become even more effective at managing risks which cost lives.”

"Red tape" is a term for excessive regulation or rigid conformity to formal rules that is considered redundant or bureaucratic and hinders or prevents action or decision-making. It is usually applied to governments, corporations and other large organizations. The origins of the term are somewhat obscure, but it is first noted in historical records in the 16th century, when Henry VIII besieged Pope Clement VII with around eighty or so petitions for the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Traditionally, official Vatican documents were also bound in red cloth tape.

The tradition continued through to the 17th and 18th century. Although Charles Dickens is believed to have used the phrase before Thomas Carlyle, the English practice of binding documents and official papers with red tape was popularized in Carlyle's writings, protesting against official inertia with expressions like "Little other than a red tape Talking-machine, and unhappy Bag of Parliamentary Eloquence".

• The full regional breakdown of workplace fatalities across Great Britain is available at

• If you have an opinion on Red Tape, get online between 30 June and 21 July 2011. Visit or search online for Red Tape Challenge.  The Red Tape Challenge was launched by the Prime Minister on 7 April 2011.