Unite has warned that workers’ lives are being placed at risk due to a 25% cut in the number of frontline health and safety inspectors.A freedom of information request by the union found that there were 1311 inspectors on 1 April 2010 but that this figure had fallen to 980 by 31 December 2016, representing a loss of 331 inspectors and a 25% decrease.
Unite has released the figures just before International Workers’ Memorial Day to highlight the increasing lack of enforcement and safety protection in the workplace. Unite also acquired via an FOI that it takes three years four months on average from a fatal workplace accident until those responsible are brought to justice
Responding to the Unite data, an HSE spokesperson told Health and Safety at Work: “The HSE helps maintain Great Britain as one of the safest places to work in the world, completing around 20,000 inspections annually, assessing and licensing major hazard activities, investigating all incidents meeting the HSE board’s selection criteria and taking proportionate enforcement action. Our performance in dealing with investigations has improved significantly, particularly for fatal incidents.
“The construction sector is a priority for the HSE. We have teams of dedicated construction specialists across England, Scotland and Wales who target the highest risk sites and activities.
“Through improved targeting we have been able to direct inspectors to tackle more serious risks, and this inevitably means that inspections take longer. However, we do not measure our impact simply by counting the number of inspections.
“In addition to planned inspections, we also respond to concerns about unsafe construction activities and investigate cases of ill health and injury, and provide advice to employers and workers. We remain actively committed to improving standards in the construction industry through the full range of options available to us.”
Unite’s acting general secretary, Gail Cartmail, said: “HSE inspectors play a vital role in keeping workers safe. Rogue bosses who are prepared to break safety laws, are only kept in check by the fear of being caught and punished. Fewer inspectors mean more bosses willing to risk workers’ lives to boost profits.”
SG World Sales and Marketing Director, Richard Nichols, said: “Our customers view H&S as an investment not a cost. Investing in H&S at the micro and macro level ultimately increases workforce productivity and that’s good news for the UK economy. It’s essential the HSE has the resources it needs to keep Great Britain one of the safest places to work in the world.”