The Löfstedt Review of Health and Safety: a Critical Evaluation

James, Phil; Tombs, Steve and Whyte, David (2012). The Löfstedt Review of Health and Safety: a Critical Evaluation. IER.



In March 2011, announcing the establishment of a further review of health and safety legislation, Employment Minister Chris Grayling stated,

‘Professor Löfstedt’s review will play a vital part in putting common sense back at the heart of Britain’s health and safety system and I look forward to receiving his findings. By rooting out needless bureaucracy we can encourage businesses to prosper and boost our economy.’

Reclaiming health and safety for all: An independent review of health and safety legislation (hereinafter referred to as the Report), produced by Löfstedt’s review of health and safety legislation was published in November 2011. In many respects, its conclusions and recommendations might be viewed with a sense of relief. The government statement had implied a thoroughgoing undermining of health and safety law as a bureaucratic brake on business activity. But the Report suggests no such thing. In fact, it largely endorses the current regulatory framework for health and safety and consequently does not appear to represent an explicit attempt to weaken its foundations.

Looked at more broadly, however, the Report can be seen to form an intimate part of a coalition government agenda aimed at undermining, rather than enhancing, regulatory protection in the name of employer interests – rendering somewhat ironic the Report’s claim to be ‘Reclaiming health and safety for all’. Indeed, this much has been acknowledged by Löfstedt himself, who has since expressed concern about the extent to which his Report is being ‘misused’ for political purposes. Löfstedt has emphasised that his Report did not call for significant changes to regulatory policy, or recognise the ‘compensation culture’ that government ministers regularly condemn, and which successive governments have used as a wedge with which to undermine protective law.

In what follows, these somewhat contradictory opening observations are supported, first, by considering in turn the origins, terms of reference and conduct of Löfstedt’s review and then, second, the main conclusions of the Report. We then focus upon the review’s curious use of the existing evidence base and discuss how its use of that evidence underpins two key problematic aspects of the Report: the focus on ‘low-risk’ workplaces, and the absence of any consideration of enforcement. We conclude by placing the work and conclusions of the review into a broader policy context. It is this broader policy context, we argue, that is crucial to understanding the potential impacts of the review in terms of further degrading the system of occupational health and safety protection and thus increasing the risks of death, injury and illness in the workplace.

Viewing alternatives

No digital document available to download for this item

Item Actions