Lord Young of ‘Gaffem’ back in favour at Number 10

Good news and bad news for worker safety in the UK

Bad news: Lord Young is back

Good news: there is no good news, well not much anyway… 

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‘Never had it so good’ peer Lord Young of Graffam returned to Downing Street last week on Prime Minister’s Mates’ Service or PIMMS… 

His mission, having chosen to accept it, is to help businesses thrive by ridding them of red tape and stifling health and safety regulations.

Thus a fundamentally flawed premise is enshrined in the noble Lord’s brief – Health & Safety costs money and costs jobs.   

In stark contrast to the UK’s government’s stance on health and safety in the workplace, David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), said on 15th February this year:

‘Despite concerns about the effect of regulation on American business, there is clear evidence that OSHA’s commonsense regulations have made working conditions in this country today far safer than 40 years ago when the agency was created, while at the same time protecting American jobs.’

Unfazed by the irony in resurrecting Lord Young’s career in the run up to Halloween, Number 10 officials have set up a new office for the 79-year-old peer who will spearhead a new push to remove barriers to growth for small and medium size companies.

His focus will be on working to ensure businesses are not stifled by regulation and he will look closely at the way health and safety rules impact on firms.

No agenda there then?

Last year his report Common sense, Common Safety, was welcomed by Mr. Cameron who has asked the Conservative peer to cut through the rule book and see where ministers can help businesses.

Unfortunately neither Mr. Cameron, the insurance industry lobby nor the bulk of commentators who regularly line up to vilify accident victims actually noticed that Lord Young didn’t agree with them…

For the record, this is what he said on page 19 of ‘Common Sense, Common Safety’:

Britain’s ‘compensation culture’ is fuelled by media stories about individuals receiving large compensation payouts for personal injury claims…

The problem of the compensation culture prevalent in society today is, however, one of perception rather than reality…

The public believes that the number of claims and the amount paid out in damages have also risen significantly.

The really unfortunate thing however is that Lord Young singularly failed to get this ‘common sense’ message across.

He wrote that the compensation culture is more myth than reality yet he remained mute and supine on the core issue when the report’s findings were made public. Perhaps this is why he is so suited to the task of fixing the non-problem of the ‘burden’ of Health & Safety legislation? 

Last November Lord Young of Gaffem pronounced:

For the vast majority of people in the country today, they have never had it so good ever since this recession – this so-called recession – started…”

We await with baited breath, his magisterial musings on the tiresome burden imposed by laws designed to keep people safe and well at work in the UK.

However, Mr. Cameron has clearly decided Lord Young has served his time and will welcome him back…just when we thought he had gone for good last October…  

 So farewell then Lord Young of Gaffem. 

 You resigned after you made a gaffe.

 You claimed that most people had ‘never had it so good.’ 

 Unfortunately this just isn’t true,

 Like much of your ‘Common Sense Common Safety’ review.

 Adieu.

But not so fast, the prodigal returns.

Expect many more workplace cuts, crushes, crashes and burns.  

One in five construction workers at risk says UCATT

 

(Photo: UCATT)

In a hard-hitting new report, UCATT, the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians, has found that almost one in every five construction workers is now classified as ‘at risk’.

 

Based on a review of the current enforcement regime and interviews with construction workers, ‘The hidden workforce building Britain’ says many are working in ‘slavery like’ conditions, wait in car parks to get work as day labourers and are typically employed in dangerous and unregulated work.

 

The union is calling for the creation of a single independent labour inspectorate, which would cover all industrial sectors.

 

The report argues that this beefed up body, which would police all employment standards, should have sufficient resources to dramatically increase its levels of proactive inspections. UCATT says this would ‘ensure that there is a major crackdown on exploitative employers.

 

The union’s acting general secretary, George Guy, commented: ‘It is time that government and employers accept the unpalatable truths about how the construction industry operates. Only effective regulation by a strong enforcement regime will end exploitation in the construction industry.’

 

Given this government’s attitude towards health and safety in the UK workplace and the current economic climate there is no chance of a new regulatory body being set up to monitor the construction industry labour force. This means that everyone with an interest in construction worker safety has to be extra vigilant and relentlessly ‘on guard’ to check for construction site dangers and hazards to worker’s health.

 

HSE please take note…

 

Bonnar & Company specialises in helping construction workers achieve justice and fair compensation for injury and industrial illness caused by working on site. We work exclusively on behalf of direct employees, sub-contractors, the self- employed and apprentices.

Hidden scandal of UK businesses who fail to pay for Employers’ Liability Insurance

The former landlords of a Lancashire pub were finally convicted last week after they failed to buy insurance to protect their employees. Stephen and Karen Martin were prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after they employed staff at the Hinds Head pub in Charnock Richard without purchasing the legally required Employers’ Liability Compulsory Insurance.

 

As the pair did not buy any insurance, they had no means of paying their employees any compensation they could be awarded in the event of them falling ill or suffering an injury at work. Despite being warned by HSE inspectors on several occasions between September 2010 and February 2011, the couple failed to address the issue.

 

Speaking after the hearing, HSE investigating inspector Shellie Bee said:

 

‘Employers’ Liability Compulsory Insurance is a legal requirement and not an optional extra. Because Stephen and Karen Martin cut corners to save money, they were putting their employees in a position where they could have potentially suffered a life changing illness or injury at work and had no recourse to any kind of compensation. Despite being given ample opportunity to correct this problem over a period of months, they chose to ignore the advice they were given by HSE so we had no choice but to prosecute.’

 

In the current economic climate the temptation for businesses to save money by cutting back on worker safety is a worrying trend and one which we feel must be strongly guarded against.

 

Instead of berating hurt and injured people for having the temerity to claim compensation for accidents at work, the government should focus on the hidden scandal of rogue businesses, large and small, that fail in their legal duty to pay for Employers’ Liability Compulsory Insurance – the clue, after all is in the title.

 

The UK media is quick to highlight fraudlent accident compensation claims and the mythical ‘compensation culture’  but rather less enthusisatic to turn the spotlight on law-breaking companies…

 

Bonnar & Company is preparing a dossier on this issue and we would welcome your thoughts.