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A new project is about to get under way which will look at the changing face of health and safety regulation in the past 50 years.

The study, a joint effort by the University of Reading and the University of Portsmouth, will take two years to complete. Funded by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), it will also explore how the public perception of health and safety regulation has altered.

Throughout the research, key stakeholders in the world of health and safety law will be interviewed. This will include former regulators, trade union safety officers, workers and employers. It will also quiz the politicians and policymakers that have shaped legislation.

The University of Reading's Paul Almond, Principal Investigator for the project, said:

“Health and safety regulation is an important area of law that affects everyone.”

Citing the Piper Alpha oil rig fire 25 years ago and the more recent Deepwater Horizon BP failure of 2010, the professor at the university's School of Law said such events:

“illustrate the need for laws that protect people from the harmful side-effects of work.”

From increasing office safety to tackling risks in construction and industrial areas, health and safety laws have evolved to meet the changing climate. No more can this be seen perhaps than in the legislation for personal protective clothing (PPE).

Almond continued:

“Rates of injury and death have fallen, and health and safety management is an accepted part of business.”

However, Almond went on to say that despite its clear benefits, health and safety law is still perceived negatively in some areas of society.

The putting together of ‘The Changing Legitimacy of Health and Safety regulation, 1960-2013’ will aim to explore why this is the case.

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