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Ruling saves millions of pounds in safety costs

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BRITISH HEALTH & safety experts welcomed a European Courts of Justice ruling they claim will save the UK millions of pounds.

The court's decision will allow the UK to retain the phrase 'so far as is reasonably practicable' in law.

Experts say this will prevent millions of pounds being wasted on measures to protect against dangers that pose minimal risk.

'In terms of health and safety law the clause 'so far as is reasonably practicable' means that employers don't have to take measures that are grossly disproportionate to the risk, ' said president of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health Lisa Fowlie.

'The effectiveness of this system is supported by the UK's health and safety record which is one of the best in Europe, ' she added.

The ruling followed the European Commission's claim that the phrase, setting out the duty of employers to ensure the safety of their employees at work, contravened its framework directive on health and safety issues.

Under UK health and safety law, employers can assess the level of risk and measure that against the cost of provisions to manage the risk.

The European Commission challenged the law claiming the duty was 'absolute' regardless of cost.

Partner at law rm Eversheds David Young said that the ruling had saved UK health and safety law from a major overhaul.

'This is the best possible result for the UK which has fought to defend 'reasonably practicable' on the basis that the UK has one of the lowest levels of workplace accidents in Europe, ' he said. The UK has just 1.1 accidents per 100,000 workers compared to an EU average of 2.5 per 100,000 workers.

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