Cuts to consultation periods are “counterproductive” argues Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH)


The chartered body for health and safety professionals today welcomed a call by parliamentarians to allow adequate time for consultations on Government policy. Ministers are looking at slashing the time allowed for organisations to comment on some proposed law changes, from 12 weeks to as little as two. The aim is to make the consultation process more productive. But the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is among prominent organisations to criticise the plan. It would “counterproductive”, said IOSH, because it could stop stakeholders submitting evidence on important proposals on legislation.

Now, a parliamentary watchdog has opposed the Government proposal. In a report published today, the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee said there was a risk that resulting laws would be less robust because they had been rushed through without the views of experts sought externally.

In The Government’s new approach to consultation – “Work in Progress”, the cross-party, the House of Lords committee said: “In a comment that was made in similar terms by a number of organisations, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health said that its members led active professional lives, and so required sufficient time to be able to respond to consultation.”

Since January 2012, IOSH had provided responses to a total of 65 different consultations, and was asked to comment on a wide-ranging review of EU laws, the report said.

IOSH head of policy and public affairs Richard Jones said: “We welcome the recommendation to take account of the preference for 12-week consultations and the need to avoid clashes with holidays and busy periods. We also support the recommendation that the new Government approach to consultation is independently reviewed without delay.”

The scrutiny committee also urged the Government to reconsider a “digital by default” approach to consultation that may exclude vulnerable groups and others, and may constrain comments from those who do respond.

Its report added: “IOSH said that ‘in health and safety matters where small- and medium-sized enterprises may have a verbal culture and prefer to take part in verbal discussion, rather than make written submissions, may be less inclined to participate in a system that is digital by default’.”

Mr Jones said: “It’s vital that consultations are sufficiently inclusive and accommodating to ensure good policy-making. Rushing the process or failing to engage with relevant stakeholder groups can be counterproductive and lead to poor outcomes.”