Workplace deaths warning as on-the-spot health and safety inspections are cut

Proposals to limit on-the-spot safety inspections could result in more workplace deaths and injuries, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has warned.

IOSH is also concerned that staff cuts at the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) could hamper its statutory obligation to enforce health and safety law.

Last year, HSE chief executive Geoffrey Podger said up to 350 jobs were likely to go in 2008 due to budget cuts.

The warning from IOSH follows news that workplace deaths rose by 11% to 241 in 2006-07, up from 217 the previous year.

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform has published a draft code, which aims to reduce bureaucracy for compliant businesses and strengthen enforcement against rogue employers.

The code proposes that random inspections should only be a small element of a regulators programme, used to test its processes, and recommends that regulators “allow or even encourage economic progress and only intervene when there is a clear case for protection”.

Richard Jones, IOSH’s director of technical affairs, said: “It’s important to remember that just because companies don’t report accidents and their workers don’t complain to the authorities, doesn’t necessarily mean they are OK.”

He added: “Random inspections are an important element, as rogue organisations need to be deterred by the prospect that they could get caught.”

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