Health and safety on the wane
Labour & European Law Review Weekly Issue 488 22 September 2016
According to a new survey of health and safety reps published this week by the TUC, nearly half of UK workplaces have never had a health and safety inspection.
Manufacturing is the only sector in which a majority (57 per cent) of safety reps said there had been an inspection during the past year. In stark comparison, in the hazardous construction industry – where there were 65,000 work-related injuries and 67,000 work-related illnesses in 2015 – just one in six (17 per cent) of reps was aware of an inspection in the last year.
Nearly one in two respondents (46 per cent) said that as far as they knew their workplace has never had an inspection by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Just one in four reps (24 per cent) reported an inspection within the last 12 months.
Even where risk assessments are carried out, one in five of them is thought by safety reps to be inadequate. Fewer than half (47 per cent) of all respondents in the biennial survey felt their employer had conducted adequate risk assessments. Leisure services, other services, education and distribution, hotels and catering were particularly poorly assessed.
The involvement of safety representatives in risk assessments also seems to have deteriorated, according to the report. Just 22 per cent said they were satisfied compared with 28 per cent in 2014 and 41 per cent were not involved at all (compared with 33 per cent previously).
The report also found that the five most frequently mentioned hazards at work were stress, bullying/harassment, overwork, back strains and long hours at work. Concern about stress is especially prevalent – and rising - in central government (93 per cent citing it as a top-five concern), education (89 per cent) and health services (82 per cent); and is still the most common concern in all sizes of workplaces and in every region/country of the UK.
The TUC points out that things are unlikely to improve. By 2019/20 government funding of the HSE will have been slashed by nearly half, and in recent years, local councils have reduced workplace inspections by 97 per cent. The government has also restricted the ability of workers to claim compensation if they are injured or made ill at work following employer negligence.
David Robinson, from Thompsons Solicitors, said: “The seismic cuts to the Health and Safety Executive in recent years are now having a real impact in ordinary workplaces across the country. Unchecked and unregulated work spaces can lead to workers’ lives being put at unnecessary risk. Risk assessments should not be a taboo subject and instead should be encouraged, involving a collaborative exercise with those doing the job on the ground so that there can be a practical element to any assessment.”
To read the report in full, go to: https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/focusonhealthsafetyreport.pdf