Unions concerned over planned inspection cutbacks

Government suggestions that workplace inspections for small companies could be capped to just two per year to cut back on red tape have been criticised by unions.

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said in October that a “culture change” was needed at bodies such as HM Revenue & Customs, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Environment Agency.

Instead of “breathing down the neck” of small firms they should only intervene where necessary, argued Clegg, adding: “Why should regulators be able to turn up at your door whenever they want and as often as they want? Why can’t we limit the number of inspections to, say, two a year, ensuring these bodies coordinate amongst themselves to stick within that limit?”

His comments drew fire from Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, who said: “Regulation is there to protect us all from businesses that rip us off, trash our environment and risk our health – or even our lives. However, it is only of use if it is enforced. Enforcement should not be seen as a burden on business, but instead a way of ensuring that good businesses are not undercut by cowboys who disregard the law and cut corners, whether it is on paying VAT or not polluting our rivers.”

At the same time, more health and safety prosecutions are now expected to take place before inquests, as changes to the Work-related Deaths Protocol took effect in October, the HSE’s Work-related Deaths National Liaison Committee said.

This should mean that bereaved families will see a swifter resolution to some prosecutions, it added.

Comments are closed.