TUC urges government to make prevention the priority

The
TUC says the government should spend more on the prevention of accidents,
rather than pay out huge amounts in compensation.

TUC
General Secretary John Monks said government statistics show that Britain is
doing much worse than previously thought on prevention at the workplace –
leading to a soaring compensation bill costing eight times what is spent on the
Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

"We
now know that health and safety is in a far worse state than anyone
thought," he said, "with 40 million days lost due to work-related
stress, RSI, back strain and other workplace injuries and illness.

"We
need to invest in health and safety at work because it would pay off for
workers, employers and Government.

"Unions
will of course continue to fight for fair compensation for victims, but they
and we would far rather that their injuries and illnesses were prevented in the
first place."

The
HSE’s budget this year is £260m. Next year it will be £262m, in 2004-2005 it
will be £262m and the following year it will fall back to £260m.

Compensation
payments have soared to more than £2bn a year (65 per cent paid out in
compensation court cases and 35 per cent paid by the state in Industrial
Injuries Benefit).

The
TUC wants to see an increase in the number of HSE and local authority
inspectors, government support for roving safety representatives, appointed by
unions, to visit small workplaces, and more free HSE guidance for small firms.
The TUC estimates this would initially cost an extra £50m a year.

By Quentin Reade

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