The union Unite has said that workplace deaths could be underestimated by as much as 800%.
Ahead of April’s International Workers’ Memorial Day, the union accused ministers of introducing “light touch” health and safety Regulations and called for an increase – rather than a decrease – in the number of inspectors and workplace inspections.
Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, said: “The Government is hell bent on reducing health and safety Regulations and standards. It will lead to fewer inspections, less enforcement and more deaths, injuries and ill health at work.
“Using the official statistics enables the Government to suggest that UK health and safety is better than everywhere else, and provides an excuse, albeit a very thin excuse, for cutting the health and safety responsibilities of UK employers.
“This is a complete myth, since the real number of people killed in work-related incidents each year is probably closer to 1,400, more than eight times the official Health and Safety Executive figure for 2011 of 171.”
Its call was backed by the public-sector trade union Unison, which argued that cuts of 35% to the Health and Safety Executive would affect health and safety inspections.
Dave Prentis, Unison general secretary, said: “The Government is wrong in believing that health and safety rules are a burden on business. Cut the funding to develop and enforce these rules, and business and the taxpayer will face the bigger burden of an injured and unwell workforce.”