The Government often states that cutting of red tape will lead to a more efficient streamlined system of working in both the public and the private sector.
However a recent consultation has demonstrated that if regulations are freed up in this way it puts employee safety at risk.
The consultation dealt with the injuries caused by needles and sharp instruments in the healthcare sector. At present there is a full European Directive to try and prevent what are known as ‘sharp injuries’. These are when a medical worker who is pricked by a needle can become infected by Hepatitis B or HIV. At present the draft regulations proposed by the Government to implement this directive are ambiguous and contain a number of loopholes which might lead to a worker being legally unprotected if injured.
The loophole is simple to understand. At present only an employer whose ‘main activity’ is healthcare is covered by the regulations. This means that an organisation which provides not only healthcare but also other services in a completely different area would not be covered by the regulations.
This is important because often when a claim is brought for a needlestick injury the person bringing the claim will rely on the regulations to prove their claim as cases like this have strict liability which means that there is no defence if the incident is proved to have happened.
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (‘APIL’) are taking up this campaign to try and close this loophole. Their President Karl Tonks has stated that this would undermine totally the whole point of the regulations which is to provide safety in such situation across the board of all types of work not simply ones where the main activity is healthcare.
Mr Tonks has described the attitude of the Government as a huge disappointment and said that the approach suggested that the Government’s approach seemed to indicate that they considered their drive to cut so called red tape was more important than the welfare and health of the workers who are at risk.
This is yet another example of where the political soundbite of cutting red tape which can get a minister off a hook in a tricky interview has potentially devastating consequences for those who have to suffer the results of such a misguided approach.
It is important this loophole should be closed to ensure that no-one who has had a needlestick injury through no fault of their own should be made suffer more worry by the stress of having to prove their case.