The Heroism Bill - Bringing Some Common Sense to Britain's Health and Safety Culture
Chris Grayling the Justice Secretary recently announced the Heroism Bill which is designed to protect good Samaritans from lawsuits and provide more protection to responsible employers from liability claims. Although the Bill was created to protect volunteers and community members from worrying about the risk of liability if something goes wrong in their efforts, the legislation should also bring forward measures to 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”.
The Bill's full name is the Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill and it aims to:
- promote full and just compensation for all types of personal injury
- promote and develop expertise in the3 practice of personal injury law
- promote wider redress for personal injury in the legal system
- campaign for improvements in personal injury law
- promote safety and alert the public to hazards wherever they arise
- provide a communication network for members.
Opposition MPs are questioning whether there is a need for such a bill and its brevity has surprised members of parliament as it is barely one and a half pages long (about 300 words). It's been dubbed the Sarah Bill (that's the acronym) and its critics claim that it will have no noticeable legislative effect whatsoever.
Chris Grayling claims that the Bill is particularly vital to ensure that proper protection is provided for small businesses as the compensation culture “ties their business in knots”. While an employer has a duty to provide a safe working environment and to ensure that there are systems on place and adequate training to ensure workers are competent, an employer is responsible for the conduct of his employees while they are work. This is known as “vicarious liability”. An employer is also responsible for making sure an employee knows that if he does something stupid and somebody gets injured as a result, there will be serious consequences.
This new bill will provide increased protection to small business owners “who face challenges from irresponsible employees” even if the business owner has taken a responsible approach to safety procedures and training. Okay, chances are that somebody irresponsible enough to behave stupidly and risk others at work will not last in the job for very long. However, these days, it's not always easy (or possible) to fire somebody for having a stupid and irresponsible attitude.
The new Bill should come into effect next year, however, it's sure to generate quite a bit of debate and news before then. Protecting the public and good Samaritans is commendable, there are too many people nowadays who are frightened to get involved in incident and are willing to just walk on by. However, this Bill should not be seen as legislation for safer working environments. Health and Safety at Work issues are covered by legislation that is specially designed to be appropriate for the workplace, however big or however small.