Workers ‘in danger’ because of lack of HSE inspections

Workers
are being put at risk because the Health and Safety Executive has a serious
shortage of resources, claims the Centre for Corporate Accountability and
Unison.

A
joint report by the two bodies, timed to coincide with European Health and
Safety Week, shows a serious decline in the number of workplace inspections – a
41 per cent drop over the last five years.

David
Bergman, director of the Centre for Corporate Accountability, said: "The
failure to investigate such a large number of major injuries and dangerous
occurrences – and to prosecute in such a small number of cases – has serious
implications both for prevention in the future and also for ensuring proper
accountability of those companies and individuals who have committed criminal
offences."

The
report also claims that last year 80 per cent of ‘major’ injuries to workers
reported to the HSE, and 70 per cent of ‘dangerous occurrences’, were not even
investigated.

The
detailed audit claims the HSE’s enforcement work is both "minimal and
haphazard". The report says despite detailed policies, the levels of
inspections, investigations and prosecutions are very low and vary enormously
by region and industrial sector.

Hugh
Robertson, Unison’s head of health and safety, said: "This report exposes
massive variations in the level of inspections, investigation and prosecution
by both region and sector. It also reveals that rather than increasing, the
number of safety inspections has fallen considerably over the past five years. Reducing
the number of inspections is not the way to help prevent death and injury at
work.

"The
answer lies in more resources. We need the HSE to be proactively supporting
employers, but we also need more inspections, more investigations, and more
prosecutions of criminal employers."

The
report is based on a detailed analysis of five years of raw HSE data.

The
key findings in the report included:


The number of workplace inspections declined by 41 per cent in the last five
years – a decrease of 48,300 inspection contacts.


On average, a registered premise will receive an inspection once every 20
years.


One in 10 construction sites received an inspection last year


Not investigated in 2000/2001: 3 per cent of deaths of workers; 10 per cent of
deaths of the public; 80 per cent of major injuries to workers; 93 per cent of
major injuries to the public; 55 per cent of industrial diseases


Only 11 per cent of investigated major injuries resulted in a prosecution


In the five-year period 82 per cent of major injuries to trainees and those on
work experience were not investigated – 935 not investigated out of a total of
1144


Half as many deaths in Wales and the west division resulted in a prosecution
compared to the Midlands

By Quentin Reade

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