A TUC report warns there is a risk that the government’s current drive to ‘deregulate’ health and safety could put employees at risk of death and serious injury.

‘The Case for Health and Safety’ (see http://www.tuc.org.uk/)  says that on the most modest estimates 20,000 people die prematurely every year because of occupational injury and disease, but the real figure could be nearer twice that.

The current government has a current policy of only introducing a new regulation if other regulations are removed. This is, says the TUC “political posturing”. To avoid more unscrupulous employers undercutting those that invest resources in health and safety, there must be a legal incentive to have workplaces that are safe and healthy. The alternative, when combined with underfunding of health and safety inspectors, could lead to rise in deaths and injuries at work. A voluntary approach to health and safety has failed in Ireland and in the USA, the report adds.

The TUC calls for simple initiatives to improve health and safety including:

  • the appointment of a government champion for health and safety;
  • a legal duty for directors to ensure the health and safety of all workers; and
  • the government to do more to support and encourage union workplace health and safety representatives.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: “Regulation works, as long as it is enforced, and it saves lives and prevents the contraction of unnecessary illnesses. That is why the UK continues to need strong regulation and enforcement. Every one of the 20,000 annual workplace-related deaths could have been prevented and if the level of HSE and local authority funding is cut, the effects will be even more catastrophic”.

The TUC’s report is an attempt to put its case for health and safety in advance of the publication of a review of health and safety for the government by Lord Young.

James Davies a solicitor at Thompsons Solicitors’ Serious Injuries Team said: “In our experience regulation isn’t a burden to good employers. No employers should be given the green light to play fast and loose with serious injuries and deaths in the workplace and Thompsons gives full support to this timely TUC report”.

For more information go to: www.tuc.org.uk/workplace/tuc-18416-f0.cfm