Health and Safety Executive cannot cope with workload

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) does not have sufficient resources to investigate its current case-load, a government investigation has reported.

The One death too many report into fatal injuries in the construction industry, commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and published last week, revealed that the HSE in London does not have the resources to cope with its workload.

Any attempts to investigate more cases of health and safety breaches by the organisation as a whole would also require further funding and investigators, it says.

The construction industry union UCATT said the lack of resources has long been a problem and had hindered moves aimed at preventing workplace injuries and fatalities.

The report, by Rita Donaghy, former chair of conciliation service ACAS, said: “There are insufficient resources in London to carry out even the existing workload; this has been a problem for some years. The HSE should take steps to improve this situation.

“It is clear that the inspector resource had been allowed to slip below an acceptable level. HSE needs to deal effectively with the long-standing problem of inadequate numbers of inspectors in London.”

A spokesman for UCATT said: “[HSE’s lack of resources] is something which we have long raised. We are very concerned about it. It has had a big detriment on construction safety.

“We are concerned about the low number of construction inspectors and the serious falls in enforcement activity, prosecutions and convictions. If the report is fully implemented then we will have a huge decrease in deaths in the industry.”

The report also recommended the Gangmasters Licensing Authority’s (GLA) jurisdiction be extended to cover the construction industry to ensure rigorous standards in working conditions were maintained.

This move has already been recommended by the Home Affairs Select Committee. The GLA currently monitors labourer providers in industries including agriculture, shellfish gathering and food packaging.

The HSE would not comment on the findings of the report. The DWP said it was considering all the recommendations in the report and would respond later in the year.

Official statistics recently showed the number of workplace deaths had dropped by 22% from the five year average, but this was attributed to reduced working hours during the recession.

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