health and safety

FFI? Health & Safety wheeze about to hit the buffers?

FFIas acronyms go it’s an ‘open goal’...if you’re looking for a cheap larf that is.

As ideas go, FFI is more of an ‘own goal’ but it ain’t no laughing matter because this particular Government wheeze, introduced last October, is helping to undermine 170 years of progress in workplace safety.

The evidence is that the scheme is spectacularly failing to deliver on its key objective which is: to make companies pay for Health & Safety Executive visits where breaches of health and safety regulations have occurred.

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Why should it take a workplace disaster to improve working conditions?

Why should it take a workplace disaster to improve working conditions?

ZUMA / Rex Features

In the week we commemorate the lives of workers worldwide who have died in the course of their employment we ask this question of government.


What links multiple deaths, horrific injuries and destruction on a massive scale?

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Black Monday Part 1: Business minister writes off the workplace safety of millions

Black Monday Part 1: Business minister writes off the workplace safety of millions

Business Minister Michael Fallon. Photograph: Neil Hall / Reuters

Bad luck if you work in a school, or a shop, or an office or a pub. Why? It’s quite horrifyingly simple – on Monday 10th September, 2012 this Government sacrificed your health and safety at work on the altar of spurious economics and political dogma.

The ‘theory’ underpinning this black day for worker safety is that the aforementioned workplaces are intrinsically safe, or at least not quite as dangerous as dangerous places, like construction sites. What the government is actually doing to improve health and safety on construction sites can be written on the back of a fag packet in big letters, but that’s a different story…

Perhaps the minister hasn’t heard of asbestos? Maybe he thinks people don’t get injured in schools or shops? Maybe he believes that workplace deaths conform to a strict pattern and afflict only known so-called high risk premises? Do fires and explosions only occur in places thought to be dangerous? This attitude begs the question – who is doing the THINKING? 

Hundreds of thousands of businesses are to be exempted from health and safety inspections under the move and legislation will be introduced which ministers say will protect business from “compensation culture” claims.

More on this topic in Black Monday Part 2, but even a newly appointed government minister, like the freshly minted Mr. Fallon, must be aware that Lord Young’s 2010 Report: ‘Common Sense – Common Safety’ , comissioned by David Cameron, dismissed the notion of a compensation culture in the UK as a figment of tabloid journalism.  

More than 3,000 regulations will be scrapped or overhauled, so that shops, offices, pubs and clubs will no longer face “burdensome” health and safety inspections.Officials described it as a “radical” plan to curb red tape.


It’s a reactionary plan to curb legitimate claims for compensation arising from workplace injuries.

Hurt and injured people claiming compensation for their injuries are not the cause of this country’s economic woes. Ye gods – does the Government want to turn the clock back 150 years  

The new rules, which will govern both the Health & Safety Executive and local authorities, are intended to be introduced next April.

Firms will only face health and safety inspections if they are operating in higher-risk areas such as construction or if they have an incident or track record of poor performance.

The Government also said it will introduce legislation next month to ensure that businesses will only be held liable for civil damages in health and safety cases if they can be shown to have acted negligently.

Business minister Michael Fallon said the new measures would free businesses from unnecessary red tape and help them focus on creating jobs and growth. He said: “We are all impatient for growth now and we have to do everything we can to lift this economy out of recession it’s been in and back business to create more jobs.”

Responding to union concerns that removing health and safety regulations could put workers at risk, he said: “Let me be very clear, this is only for low risk premises, offices, shops, things like that. This is not where there is risk involved, we are not talking about chemical plants or care homes.”

Predictably, the usual suspects welcomed the moves.

Alexander Ehmann, head of regulatory policy at the Institute of Directors, said: “The Government’s efforts on deregulation are welcome.Excessive regulation costs time and money, both of which businesses would rather spend on developing new products, hiring staff and building up British business both here and abroad.”

However, Richard Jones, head of policy and public affairs at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, said the Government was wrong to point the finger at health and safety, “which is always seen as an easy target”, when it comes to cutting red tape.

He said there were only 200 health and safety regulations so they were only a tiny percentage of the 3,000 total regulations.

Labour’s shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna rubbished the Government’s move as a “gimmick” that would not help the UK out of the double dip recession.

“If you talk to business about what is the main problem they face, it is a lack of demand, it is not regulation.”

Unfortunately this Government only talks to its friends in industry, like when the PM invited the insurance companies to Number 10 in February this year to hear their whingeings and bleatings about the cost of paying compensation to hurt and injured people and their families.    

Health and safety inspections already at too low a level says TUC

With the ink still drying on Lord Young’s report on the Compensation Culture, the TUC reports that almost half (49 per cent) of workplaces in the UK have never been visited by a health and safety inspector.

The TUC’s biennial survey of safety reps, published today, finds nearly one in 10 says that the last inspection at their workplace was more than three years ago, while a further 15 per cent say it was between one and three years ago. Only around a quarter (27 per cent) say their workplace has received a visit within the last 12 months.

In small companies who employ less than 50 people only 16 per cent have had an inspection in the last year. Even among large workplaces with over 1,000 workers, only one third (33 per cent) have been inspected within the last 12 months.

Despite the low level of inspection, the TUC believes that enforcement has an effect on employers taking action to make improvements in health and safety and cut the number of accidents and injuries at work. The proportion of employers who make some improvements because of the possibility of an inspection has jumped up to 61 per cent from 52 per cent in the last survey, and two thirds of employers do more than the minimum to comply with a legal enforcement notice.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:

‘Knowing that an inspector is likely to visit is one of the key drivers to changing employers’ behaviour and making the workplace safer and healthier. ‘More than a million workers are currently suffering from an illness or injury caused by their work, and in 2009 over 30 million days were lost due to work-related sickness absence. This time off work cost employers £3.7 billion – yet much of this could health have been prevented if they had ensured their workplaces were safe.

Deep cuts in spending, and a reduced visit programme as recommended by Lord Young, will make it easier for employers to avoid their obligations under the law to protect their staff at work. The Health and Safety Executive has just seen its government funding cut by 35 per cent.

These are worrying times for the UK workforce as Lord Young’s recommendations to government seek to reduce the health and safety legislation ‘burden’ on  British industry in the name of enhancing efficiency and improving competitiveness. As the TUC has pointed out, the cost to industry in terms of days lost and payments made to people unable to work due to injury or industrial illness far outwiegh any short term gains that cutting so-called health and safety ‘red tape’ might deliver.  The evidence suggests that more, not fewer accidents at work can be expected if HSE inspections are decreased from an already low level. 

If you have been hurt or injured in an accident at work, or if you have been diagnosed with an industrial illness or disease you can call us FREE on 0800 163 978 for a no obligation review of your case by a personal injury solicitor.  

April Fool? Construction sites continue to fail HSE inspections

It might be April Fools’ Day, but it is no joke that nearly one in four of the construction sites visited by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) during March failed safety checks.

The HSE announced today that inspectors carried out checks at 2,014 construction sites across Great Britain as part of an intensive inspection campaign aimed at reducing death and injury in one of Britain’s most dangerous industries.

During unannounced visits, inspectors focused on refurbishment and roofing work to ensure that any work at height was being done safely and that the sites were in good order. 2,414 contractors were inspected during the campaign.

A total of 691 enforcement notices were issued at 470 sites, with inspectors giving orders for work to be stopped immediately in 359 instances for either unsafe work being carried out at height or where sites lacked ‘good order’.
The majority of all notices issued related to unsafe work being carried out at height.

Philip White, HSE’s Chief Inspector for Construction, said:

“While it is encouraging that many small construction firms have got their act together and are giving health and safety the priority it needs, the fact that our inspectors needed to take enforcement action on almost a quarter of sites, and on a similar proportion of contractors, is a matter of serious concern.

“There are still a small number of employers or contractors who continue to put their own and other people’s health and safety at risk. This is unacceptable. I want to make it clear to these operators that we will not hesitate to take action where standards of health and safety are endangering workers lives and livelihoods.”

During 2008/09 there were 53 deaths in construction and 11,264 injuries. Last year, inspectors visited 1,759 sites, 2,145 contractors and issued 491 enforcement notices during a similar month-long initiative.

We have always known that construction workers face the greatest risk to their health and safety ,but we are very concerned to note that the number of enforcement notices issued by the HSE has risen by 40%. Consequently, we take issue with the HSE’s contention that it is only ‘a small number of contractors who continue to take risks’. These figures suggest that construction sites are actually becoming more, not less dangerous.

Bonnar & Company specialises in construction site accidents and offers free, no obligation, expert legal advice to direct employees, sub-contractors, the self-employed and apprentices. Please contact us FREE on 0800 163 978.