Thousands of businesses are to be exempt from health and safety inspections under new rules to be introduced by ministers in April 2013.

The plans will mean that premises considered to be low risk will no longer receive routine inspections, which ministers say place an unnecessary burden on businesses.

The plans are to be announced by Business Minister, Michael Fallon, and will affect businesses such as shops, offices, pubs and clubs.

Businesses operating in areas deemed high-risk, such as construction and food production, and those with a record of poor health and safety performance, will still receive inspections.

There are also plans to introduce legislation to ensure that businesses will only be held liable for civil damages in health and safety cases if they can be shown to have acted negligently.

In its drive to cut bureaucracy the Government plans to cut or change more than 3,000 regulations that it believes will save businesses millions of pounds.

Business Secretary, Vince Cable, said businesses need to focus on creating jobs and growth rather than “being tied up in unnecessary red tape”.

He said:

“I’ve listened to those concerns and we’re determined to put common sense back into areas like health and safety, which will reduce costs and fear of burdensome inspections.”

Whilst business groups have welcomed the plans, some trade unions are concerned that they will be risking the safety of both employees and customers.

Alexander Ehmann, Head of Regulatory Policy at the Institute of Directors, said the announcement was “good news” if it marked “the beginning, not the end, of the deregulation story”.

He said:

“Excessive regulation costs time and money, both of which businesses would rather spend on developing new products, hiring staff and building up British business both here and abroad.”

However, Bob Crow, leader of the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, called it an “all-out attack on safety” which he said will have “lethal consequences for workers and the public alike as businesses are given the green light to cut corners”.

“Vince Cable’s set of plans will drag the clock back and goes hand in hand with massive cuts to the enforcement arm of the Health and Safety Executive,” he said.

“This isn’t about cutting red tape, it’s about cutting the throat of safety regulations and the trade unions will mobilise a massive campaign of resistance,” added Mr Crow.