Government reforms of the UK’s system of health and safety are to be evaluated in a two-year study.

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has commissioned experts at the University of Nottingham to explore whether reducing regulation would help businesses to prosper, without harming the health and safety of their employees.

Health and safety and its implications at policy and practice levels have come under close scrutiny by the current Government.

A review of the health and safety culture by Lord Young, “Common Sense, Common Safety” in 2010, was followed by Professor Ragnar Lofstedt’s 2011 report which called for the simplification of some regulation and recommending a rethink around the concept of risk.

The study, part of IOSH’s research programme “Health and safety in a changing world”, will assess the Governmen’s response to the Lofstedt review and its effect on practice according to various stakeholder perspectives and will map how the landscape continues to evolve for businesses and occupational safety and health (OSH) practitioners.

Research programme director Professor Robert Dingwall said: “The project supports IOSH’s mission to champion a realistic approach to risk management, supporting employees and employers in minimizing the social and economic costs of death and injury at work.

“There is a serious concern that the flexibility created by a lighter touch from public agencies will actually be lost in an expansion of private rules from other interested parties like insurance companies. This project will help to tell us what is happening on the ground.”

With extensive expertise in the translation of occupational health and safety knowledge and policy into effective practice, Dr Stavroula Leka, from the University’s Institute of Work, Health & Organisations, will lead the team alongside Dr Aditya Jain, from Nottingham University Business School.

The research will consider a wide breath of viewpoints across sectors and from academia, industry, government, trade unions and standards bodies. The research team will also utilise its international network to engage professionals with a European perspective, consider their experiences and make comparisons with the UK.

Dr Leka said: “Our goal is to achieve a more coherent understanding of the needs of today’s workplace and workforce. This research will make a valuable contribution to all parties who are concerned with the promotion of a safe and healthy work environment.”