Health & Safety

For almost 40 years there has been a political consensus around the importance of regulations that protect all workers. That however has begun to fall apart. The coalition government has an agenda which is openly anti-regulation. In the past year and a half we have seen two inquiries set up by the government with the purpose of trying to reduce regulation that protects workers. We have also seen the Red Tape Challenge which aimed to do the same. Despite the evidence that there is no "over-regulation" or "burden on business" the first moves to reduce protection have already started with proposed changes to workplace injury, disease and dangerous occurrences reporting regulations RIDDOR. At the same time the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), one of the most respected and effective of all public bodies, faces cuts of 35 per cent over the next three years.

This will lead to a decline in HSE activities, as is acknowledged in a recent official consultation which said, as a result of the cuts, "the expected 'lower level of enforcement' would mean a consequent decrease in health and safety standards throughout Great Britain, with ensuing costs to society". The number of HSE inspectors will fall further. The number of inspections and prosecutions is already at an all-time low and is likely to fall even further.

Support for both employers and workers is being reduced. HSE has had to close its information line and all campaigns have been stopped on orders of the government - even massively successful campaigns such as the "Hidden Killers" one on asbestos. At the same time more emphasis is being put on "worker involvement" programmes which bypass or undermine the union model, despite no evidence that non-union models work.

Day of Action 28 April 2012

The TUC, which URTU is an affiliated member, wants to use 28 April 2012 as the day when workers up and down the country take action to protect our health and safety. This is International Workers Memorial Day and, although the TUC has traditionally called for activity to take place in the workplace, in 2012, 28 April falls on a Saturday and many workplaces will be closed. So URTU and other trade unions will be making 28 April 2012 a "Day of activity to defend health and safety".

What do we want?

  • No reduction in the legal protection for workers on health and safety. It is not a "burden on business" to protect the lives and health of workers.
  • Those who create the risk must be held accountable. We need harsher penalties for those that break the law and a legal duty on those at the top of organisations who make decisions.
  • No freedom from inspections and an increase in inspector numbers. Small businesses and the self-employed often create much higher risk. No business should be exempt from inspectors having the right to inspect them, but we also need enough inspectors to do the job.
  • Recognition and support for the role that union safety representatives play. Unionised workplaces are safer. It is time the government publicly acknowledged that and did something to practically support health and safety representatives.
  • More action to prevent occupational diseases. Tens of thousands of people are killed every year by diseases caused by their work. Five times as many days are taken off through sickness as a result of an illness caused by work than an injury. Yet far less is done to prevent occupational diseases.

Call to action on health and safety - URTU 19th January 2012

Category: Health & Safety



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