Health and safety in decline

UK workers are being put at risk because of a serious decline in workplace
health and safety, warns Unison

A study has found that there has been a 41 per cent drop in inspections by the
HSE in the past five years – a total of 48,300 – the Centre for Corporate
Accountability and union Unison have warned.

On top of this, 80 per cent of major injuries to workers reported to the HSE
and 70 per cent of "dangerous occurrences" were not investigated.

The study suggested that enforcement by the HSE was minimal and haphazard.
Despite having detailed policies in place, the levels of inspections,
investigations and prosecutions were all very low and varied enormously
according to region and industrial sector.

David Bergman, director of the Centre for Corporate Accountability, said:
"The failure to investigate such a large number of major injuries and
dangerous occurrences – and to prosecute in such a small number of cases – has
serious implications both for prevention in the future and also for ensuring
proper accountability of those companies and individuals who have committed
criminal offences."

On average, a registered premises received an inspection once every 20

Just one in 10 construction sites were inspected last year, despite a
high-profile campaign by the HSE on construction industry health and safety.

A total of 3 per cent of worker deaths went uninvestigated in 2000/01 as
well as 10 per cent of deaths and 93 per cent of major injuries to the public.

Similarly, 55 per cent of industrial diseases were not probed, with only 11
per cent of investigated major injuries resulting in a prosecution.

In the five-year period, 82 per cent of major injuries to trainees and those
on work experience were not investigated, with 935 not investigated out of a
total of 1,144.

An HSE spokesperson said the HSE rejected the CCA/Unison argument, arguing
that inspection was only one part of a larger picture.

"In order to use our resources to maximum effect, we are constantly
trying new approaches to get the balance right between education, inspection
and enforcement activity," it said.

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