Safety inspections in the UK have plummeted to a new low, increasing the chances of workers being killed, made ill or injured by their jobs, according to new figures published by the TUC.
Previously unpublished figures obtained by the TUC-backed health and safety journal Hazards from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that in the three years from 2002-03, visits to organisations by safety inspectors dropped by more than one-quarter, down from 74,000 a year to 55,000 in 2004-05.
The Hazards figures also show that employers who commit safety offences against their staff are unlikely to ever find themselves in court. In 2003-04, HSE took legal action against 960 firms, but in 2004-05, this figure had fallen to just 712 prosecutions.
Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, said: "There is a real danger the UK's safety record will get worse unless the HSE devotes more resources to carrying out a greater number of more effective inspections.
"With visits and prosecutions at a new low, there is no incentive for employers to tighten up on safety and as a result more workers are likely to die, be made ill or injured at work."
The HSE has said the reasons for fewer prosecutions were a combination of a decline in the number of accidents and reported ill health and better targeting of resources, meaning fewer incidents were investigated, but that a greater proportion led to prosecution.