The TUC has expressed concern at the latest prosecutions statistics published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The figures reveal that the number of negligent employers being prosecuted for health and safety crimes has dropped, as has the number of enforcement notices issued to employers with unsafe workplaces.
Figures published in the HSE Offences and Penalties Report show a 35% fall in prosecutions of employers in the past three years and a 25% drop in enforcement notices served in the past year.
Local authorities are also taking fewer companies to court as a result of accidents and injuries sustained at work. In the past 10 years, council prosecutions have dropped by 50% and there has been a 75% fall in the number of enforcement notices issued.
TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, said: “Last year 220 workers were killed in the UK, more than 150,000 people were injured and 2.2 million people are suffering from an illness that was either caused or made worse by their work.
“All these accidents, injuries and diseases are avoidable and most are caused by employers ignoring health and safety laws.
“We don’t want to see HSE inspectors spending all their time in court, but at the moment it’s very easy for employers who’ve put their employees’ health and safety at risk to escape punishment.”
TUC research has shown that when an enforcement notice is issued, more than two-thirds of employers not only comply, but also end up reviewing health and safety practices elsewhere in their organisation.
“When the Health and Safety Commission launched its new strategy for improving workplace health and safety last year it promised that enforcement would still be a key part of this. The report shows that this is clearly not the case,” said Barber.