The largest trade union in the UK Unite has warned that lives are being put in danger because of a drop in the number of Health & Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors.
According to the union, the number of HSE inspectors in the UK has reduced by 25 per cent since 2010. The organisation obtained the figures through a Freedom of Information request and stated that it demonstrates there is a lack of enforcement, when it comes to health and safety in the workplace.
The group points out that the HSE’s budget will have been cut by nearly half of what it was in 2010, by the time we reach the end of this parliament in 2020, while the Conservative government has also removed a number of pieces of safety legislation since returning to power.
Gail Cartmail, Unite Acting General Secretary, commented that the kind of bosses who disregard their workers’ safety by breaking health and safety laws “are only kept in check by the fear of being caught and punished”.
“Fewer inspectors’ means more bosses willing to risk workers’ lives to boost profits,” she stated.
Unite also criticised the way in which the role of workplace safety representatives are being undermined by changing legislation, noting that their job is increasingly vital given the reduced number of HSE inspectors.
The union has also been calling for the government to take action over how long it takes to get a conviction in cases of workplace fatalities.
In another Freedom of Information request, the organisation discovered that it takes an average of three years and four months to obtain a conviction after a fatality in the workplace. Unite added that it is concerned this will only get longer as the HSE’s budget comes under further pressure.
Unite is calling on all political parties to commit to a comprehensive review of the process of prosecuting companies and individuals involved in workplace fatalities, to establish why there are such long delays and to introduce measures to speed up the process.
The HSE is far from the only public service that’s facing budget pressures though. Earlier this year, the Performance Tracker compiled by the Institute for Government (IfG) and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy found that hospitals and adult social care services are being pushed to breaking point.
What’s more, the prison service has gone beyond breaking point, according to the report, which stated that the government needs to look at ways of improving financial planning so that it can avoid “getting into a cycle of crisis, cash, repeat”, Julian McCrae, IFG Deputy Director, commented.
Organisations, whether in the public or private sector, need to make sure that they are operating within health and safety law, and that there are robust emergency response plans in place to deal with any unexpected incidents that may occur.
If your company needs assistance developing its contingency plans, or you want to make sure you’re offering the best and most appropriate training to your employees, contact us at HFR Solutions today to find out how we can help.