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.
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