A reflection on the current local authority-led regulation model: views from small-and medium-sized businesses

Borley, Lisa and Page, Alan (2016) A reflection on the current local authority-led regulation model: views from small-and medium-sized businesses. Policy and Practice in Health and Safety, 14 (2). pp. 144-162. ISSN 1477-3996

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Abstract

Background
Health and safety regulation has been identified by the UK government as an area of over-regulation; a burden to business; and hindering economic growth. In response recommendations have been made to government to reduce this regulation1-3. Whilst this seems to be the view held by government, many sources indicate that health and safety regulation has a role to play in supporting business4-6 and that ‘good regulation’ can actually help businesses and aid in their growth and economic prosperity.

Guidance issued by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to Local Authorities has left Local Authority regulatory departments unable to undertake proactive inspections in medium and low risk workplaces, relying on intelligence to trigger reactive investigative visits. Such visits effectively only allow the prevention of future repetitions rather than preventing harm in the first place. At the same time spending cuts have seen reductions of 28% to Local Authority funding which has forced a re-examination of how to deliver services including health and safety regulation.

Method
An empirical qualitative methodology was applied to test the health and safety compliance advice required by SMEs. Semi-structured interviews (n-10) were carried out with selected SME owners/managers across a range of sectors with varying exposures to health and safety regulatory interventions, in the City of Peterborough. The interviews were conducted face-to-face at the business premises, recorded and transcribed. The data was coded in order to establish themes which were used to develop emergent theory.

Results
Ten themes emerged from the data. The strongest themes that emerged were that businesses did not feel that deregulation or reduced inspections would be beneficial either at the individual business level or across the sector. Of significant note was that participants wanted to continue to have inspections on a frequent basis. They felt that fewer inspections would lead to lower compliance levels and increased accidents. In addition, SMEs indicated that they do not have the skills or capacity to self-regulate and thus wish for tailored business advice to aid in protecting their workforce.

Recommendations
The presumption that regulatory visits are negative is questioned by the research and indeed all interviewees welcomed the support they gain from such visits. With this in mind it is suggested that a more business advisory approach is adopted to meet SME needs and aid growth while still protecting the workforce. A number of recommendations are made including a risk based proactive intervention strategy based on responsive regulation principles, improvement of communication and business engagement and focus on advice provision for SMEs. The recommendations are designed to meet businesses needs and also to contribute to business growth.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > School of Science and Technology > Natural Sciences
Item ID: 23755
Notes on copyright: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Policy and Practice in Health and Safety on 02/07/2016, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/14773996.2016.1255442
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Alan Page
Date Deposited: 06 Mar 2018 10:21
Last Modified: 10 Nov 2018 03:29
URI: http://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/23755

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