Those who have studied regulatory policy have heard about this report, which marks a major milestone, an entire shift of regulatory practice across the world from prescriptive to performance based (and self-regulatory) concepts.
At the same time as Robens was writing this report, Stigler was working on ideas such as regulatory capture. The 1970s were a fertile time for regulatory reform theories. It took another 15 years for such ideas to get embedded into practice.
I've not had time to read the report but some time ago I made a copy of the report, intending to read it in due course (this is not a copyright violation, this being a PUBLIC report, prepared for the British parliament). That did not happen. My copy had to be trashed recently, but before doing so, I scanned and OCRd it.
The scan is huge (80 MB) so I'm not uploading it. The OCRd text, with a few errors, is now available here (672 KB).
Time permitting, I'll convert this into Word, compare with the original and annotate in colour. In the meanwhile you can get a sense about what this report is from the uploaded text file, and also read about this report by searching google. You'll find innumerable references.
This report is a classic in the field of regulatory studies.
The interesting thing is that although Robens was a senior Labour Party politician (and well may have become PM of UK had he persisted in politics), his work has been broadly accepted by all sides of politics.
R. C. Browne, Safety and health at work: The Robens Report, Nuffield Department of Industrial Health, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, British Journal of Industrial Medicine, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Jan., 1973), pp. 87-91
[Source] The Robens Report (1972, UK) on OSH: Shift from industry specific regulations to framework legislation for all industries and workers (more systemic approach to OSH)
[Source] During the 1980s and 1990s, Australian jurisdictions adopted OHS regulatory systems which reflected the recommendations of the Robens Report (1972) from the United Kingdom. Robens shifted the focus of regulations from prescriptive requirements to process-and-outcome-related duties of care. This has been an important over-arching influence on reforms over the last 30 years.
[Source] The Victorian OHS model has its foundations in the UK’s ‘Robens principle’. However, it has evolved the idea of ‘self-regulation’ into a system known in Australia as "coregulation"
- The ongoing importance of what are broadly termed “general duty”-type provisions by which workplace participants are obliged to, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain safe systems of work and otherwise take reasonable care for the safety of certain workplace participants.
- The supporting of those general duties with a regime of more detailed prescription through regulations and other forms of delegated legislation.
- The imperative to achieve a more effective self-regulating system through consultation and related interaction between workplace participants.
[Source] The Robens Report identified that the greatest single contributing factor to accidents at work was human apathy, an entrenched societal deficiency also identified by the deaf-blind Helen Keller who noted that “science had found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all – the apathy of human beings.”
The Robens Report suggested that this apathy would not be cured so long as people are encouraged to think that safety and health at work can be ensured by an ever-expanding body of legal regulations enforced by an ever-increasing army of inspectors. Rather,
the primary responsibility for doing something about the present levels of occupational accidents and disease lies with those who create the risks and those who work with them. The point is quite crucial.
The Robens principles include:
- An effective self-regulatory system in which employers and employees and their representatives accept primary responsibility for reducing occupational accidents and disease;
- Workers participate in establishing and monitoring the arrangements for safety and health in workplaces; and
- The basic function of safety inspectorates is the provision of expert and impartial advice and assistance to industry.
The Robens Committee findings and conclusions on the role of regulatory authorities were clear and concise:
- The inspectorate has learned from experience that recourse to legal sanctions is only one means of achieving the objectives of safety legislation and that it is rarely the most apt or the most effective.
- There are far too many workplaces and far too many regulations applying to them for anyone to contemplate anything in the nature of continuous official supervision and rigorous enforcement.
- We believe that as a matter of explicit policy, the provision of skilled and impartial advice and assistance should be the leading edge of the activities of the inspectorate.
- Seek to raise standards above the minimum level required by law;
- Advise on better organisation;
- Be concerned with the broad aspects of safety and health organisation at workplaces they visit;
- Discuss safety and health problems with work people and their representatives.
With regard to prosecutional approaches the Report was once again clear and concise:
- Any idea that occupational safety and health standards should be rigorously enforced through the extensive use of legal sanctions is one that runs counter to our general philosophy.
- We do not believe that the traditional sanction commands any very widespread degree of respect or confidence in the occupational safety and health field.
[Source] The influence of the Robens Report on the OHS regulatory system
The regulatory approach adopted by all Australian jurisdictions continues to be very much influenced by the recommendations of a committee headed by Lord Robens in the United Kingdom. The Robens Report was released in 1972 (Robens 1972) and recommended that the United Kingdom introduce a single enabling Act to replace the mass of existing legislation which regulated specific hazards or types of workplaces in that country.
The Robens report recommended that this overarching Act should:
- lay down the duties of employers, workers and suppliers of materials
- establish basic rights for workers and their representatives
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