Britain must tackle OH to keep on top of H&S issues

The UK is now one of the world leaders when it comes to workplace health and
safety, but still needs to do more on OH issues, the Health and Safety
Commission (HSC) has warned.

In its annual report, HSC chairman Bill Callaghan said the commission had
made good progress in compliance activities and in major hazard sectors but
needed help in tackling occupational health, with employers needing to do more.

"With 3.7 million enterprises and a workforce of more than 28 million,
OH and safety cannot be the business of the HSC/E alone," Callaghan

It was now developing its strategy to take the health and safety system to
2010 and beyond.

"Our aim is to position health and safety as a cornerstone of a
civilised society," he added.

"But there is still much to be done, particularly on occupational
health, if Britain is to keep its position among world leaders in workplace
health and safety."

Highlighting the problems it faces, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
has warned that dangerous employers are repeatedly putting their workers’ lives
at risk because the financial penalties imposed by the courts are too low.

Most firms prosecuted for health and safety offences were repeat offenders,
seemingly undeterred by fines.

There are no set levels for health and safety fines, meaning it is up to the
judge to decide on the financial penalty.

The average fine has fallen in the past 12 months, to £8,828 from £11,141,
although this was partly because there were fewer larger fines.

HSE director general Timothy Walker said: "There has been no
substantial change to reflect the seriousness of health and safety cases since
the Court of Appeal said in 1998 that fines for health and safety were too

The executive issued a much larger number of improvement and prohibition
notices in agriculture and construction this year, two priority areas because
of their previously poor records.

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