Government claims that it will cut the burden of health and safety inspections for pubs and other firms are “misleading”, according to a body for health and safety professionals. The department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) said today that hundreds of thousands of firms - including pubs, clubs, shops and offices - will be exempt from burdensome health and safety inspections from April 2013. In future, businesses will only be inspected if they are operating in high risk areas, such as construction, or if they have a poor record. BIS said it would also change the law next month so companies will only be liable for civil damages in health and safety cases if they can be shown to have acted negligently. “This will end the current situation where businesses can automatically be liable for damages even if they were not actually negligent,” the department said. Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “Removing unnecessary red tape and putting common sense back into areas like health and safety will reduce fears and costs for businesses. We want to help give British business the confidence it needs to create more jobs and support the wider economy to grow.” However, Richard Jones, head of policy and public affairs at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), said: “These sorts of announcements have been made before and it is very disappointing that everyone immediately starts pointing the finger at health and safety, which is always seen as an easy target. “The talk of reducing around 3,000 regulations and at the same time focusing on health and safety is misleading. There are only 200 health and safety regulations in total, so any reduction in these will be a tiny percentage of the 3,000 and so far only 21 have been considered.” Jones said two recent Government reviews, by Lord Young and Professor Ragnar Löfstedt, and the ‘red tape challenge’ all found the health and safety system in this country to be broadly ‘fit for purpose’ “The problem is with a misunderstanding of what the real requirements are – so we need better education on sensible management of risk,” he said. “There is an exaggerated fear of being sued in this country, fed by aggressive marketing, which the Government needs to tackle. Jones added: “We are concerned that businesses that currently benefit from proactive inspections and getting expert advice from ‘the horse’s mouth’ will lose out under this new regime. The end result is that standards may drop and more people are killed or injured.”