Hazards Campaign says HSE’s ‘Be part of the solution’ is a damp squib and the state of H&S at work is much worse then they think!
The HSE’s ‘Be part of the solution’ strategy adopts some stronger language on the effects of bad health and safety on workers, the need for more justice and accountability, health and safety as a right not a privilege, and the role of the HSE as an enforcer which we welcome. However, it completely fails to put any power behind those words. It also fails to take on board the criticisms of the Hazards Campaign and Familes Against Corporate Killers, who had to force the HSE to make the consultation real by inviting us to the meetings to give our views not just sign up to the strategy. (1)
HSE’s strategy speaks of ‘The need for strong leadership’, but does not call for legal H&S duties on directors, just more exhortation to champion H&S and the current ineffective voluntary guidance. It speaks of ‘Involving the workforce’ but does not recommend new rights for safety reps or more enforcement of existing rights and the employers duties towards safety reps and workers generally, the effect of this is to undermine the practical mechanism of resolving problem at source and creating good H&S at workplace level. The strategy merely appeals to everyone to sign up to doing better but offers no more severe sanctions to employers and business if they carry on in the same abysmal way It does not make clear that in its current enfeebled state the HSE is not capable for delivering the drastic improvement that is essential as it needs more resources and political will to enable it to act as the effective enforcement agency we desperately need it to be to create a better H&S culture. The featuring of Corus on the promotional video as signing up to the strategy without any explanation that Corus has killed a large number of workers and therefore has very serious problems to address, undermines their case.
The strategy states that most people underestimate the number of people killed and injured by work, but then underestimates the figures itself! It fails to mention the millions made ill and the tens of thousands dying of occupational illness every year (2) It does not make clear that the burden of this poor health and safety is mostly borne by workers and their families in heartbreak and distress, or that of the up to £30 billion per year cost to society the employers, who create the risks that cause this horrendous toll, pay less than 25% of this cost (3) We simply cannot afford employers lack of compliance and outright criminal negligence at the best of times, let alone in a recession which threatens to put more workers at even greater risk.
The strategy does not refer to the damaging impact of deregulation and soft touch regulation on health and safety which when it was applied to the financial sector is almost universally blamed for causing the recession that now threatens workers lives even more. The HSE should reject deregulation and act as the workers’ H&S champion.
Hazards Campaign spokesperson, Hilda Palmer says:
’HSE’s ‘Be part of the solution’ fails to shows the leadership and intention to get tough on the employers who create the risks that make people sick, injure them and kill them that a real enforcement agency should exhibit. It is not what employers say that is important but what they do, and the majority are not consulting workers, not complying with basic risk prevention and are not fully accountable for their actions or omissions.
Without a massive injection of resources and real political will to tackle the many noncompliant and criminally negligent employers, it is hard to see how more voluntarism can have any real impact. The HSE has already gone soft on enforcement and there is a massive lack of deterrence as inspections, investigations of injuries, enforcement notices and prosecutions are all down.
Lack of enforcement of safety reps rights and of employers’ duties towards them undermines the massive and well accepted union safety effect in the workplace and is mere lip service to worker involvement.
Failure to implement positive legal duties on directors for health and safety, rather than the voluntary guidance currently in place, prevents employers being held properly accountable.’
For more information contact Hilda Palmer 0161 636 7557 mobile 07298 00240
Notes to editors
HSE Strategy Launch : Be part of the Solution
1 ‘Credit Crunch Recession and Reforms and a reeling regulator leave workers at risk
Hazards 105 pages 6-7
The Hazards Campaign, a coalition of union and health and safety campaign groups, has spelled out key issues to be raised in response to HSE’s strategy consultation.
Real burden – Stop worrying about the health and safety “burden” on business; HSE must recognise the real burden is borne by those made ill, injured and killed and their families.
True toll – When HSE talks about the harm caused by work, it should acknowledge the real toll – the tens of thousands killed by work cancers and occupational diseases every year, the hundreds dying on the roads while working and the thousands of other deaths not including in HSE fatality statistics.
Credible threat -Existing enforcement practice is not good enough. There must be more HSE investigations, inspections and enforcement action.
Regulation -HSE must reject explicitly any deregulatory rules or pressures that would affect its ability to do its job.
Widespread problem -Safety law-breaking is not a minority matter – lots are at it but go unseen because of HSE’s failure to inspect. HSE must demand the resources to do its job right.
Safety reps – Lip service to safety reps is not good enough. There must be vigorous enforcement of safety reps’ rights and involvement of safety reps by HSE. A high level safety reps’ rights champion must be appointed by HSE to ensure this is given a top priority.
Roving reps – HSE must support roving safety reps to carry the union safety effect into small firms and throughout the supply chain, with special emphasis on high risk industries including construction and agriculture.
Justice at work – The HSE consultation document acknowledges securing justice is a key goal. HSE should acknowledge this can only be achieved by giving individual directors explicit legal duties and accountability for health and safety. Tell HSE what to do
2..’It’s a great deal worse than the HSE admit in the PR – the real numbers
killed made sick or injured at work 1,500-1,600 in incidents at work, more
than murders, and up to 50,000 due to occupational illness each year.
‘The Whole Story’ published in Safety and Health Practitioner in December 2008 –
3. Who pays? You do Lead article in Hazards 106