Number of safety inspections fall in poor economic climate

The harsh economic climate, austerity-related job cuts and job-loss fears among those still in work are all having a real impact on the health and wellbeing of workers, trade union body the TUC has warned.

The top safety concerns cited by union safety reps were stress, bullying and harassment, problems relating to heavy workloads and overwork, violence and intimidation, it said.

Safety reps also raised concerns about a decline in the number of safety inspections.

Just under half of the 1,875 safety reps who responded to the TUC’s survey said their workplace had never had a visit from a safety inspector. One in 10 had not seen a safety inspector in their workplace for more than three years and a further 16% said their workplace had not been inspected for between one and three years.

Just 28% reported a visit from an inspector in the past year, and even in sectors such as construction, known for its poor safety record, fewer than half said their building sites had received a safety inspection in the past 12 months.

This created a climate of complacency, where employers – safe in the knowledge that a visit might be years away – were less likely to make safety improvements.

Two years ago, 61% of safety reps said their employer had made some attempt at safety improvements because of the possibility of an inspection. In 2012, the TUC said this had declined to 53%.

Then TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “A growing number of employers now seem content to let safety standards slip, so confident are they that an inspector is unlikely to call and hold their workplace safety policies to account.”

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