Government guilty of breaching human rights over Grenfell cladding and protecting workers and citizen’s health and safety.
The Hazards Campaign welcomes and supports the statement by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, EHRC, that the government is breaching its fundamental obligations to protect citizens’ right to life by failing to address the systemic problems of health and safety that led to the Grenfell tragedy.
The Commission expressed its concern that the consultation on the use of external cladding omits any reference to the government’s duty to protect lives under article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights and schedule 1 to the Human Rights Act 1998.
The EHRC has written to the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government (DHCLG) outlining its concerns about the continued use of combustible cladding in existing buildings and advising the department of its responsibilities under human rights laws to protect lives.
“This paramount duty requires the state to take appropriate steps within its power to effectively protect the lives of individuals and groups in situations where there is a known real risk to life, or where the authorities ought to have known that,” the commission said in its response to the consultation to combustible cladding”
The Hazards Campaign specifically agrees and welcomes the EHRC challenge to the government that their failure to address the risk to life posed by combustible external cladding, similar to that used on the Grenfell Tower, is a breach of human rights. We would argue this existed both before and after the tragedy, but we also argue there is a wider breach of the human rights of workers and citizens in the attack on health and safety regulation generally.
“On the issue of cladding, we call for much stricter building controls, clearer guidance and effective, independent not privatised, outsourced enforcement,” said Janet Newsham, acting Chair of the Hazards Campaign . “We also agree with the EHRC intervention’s wider view which supports our long-held and consistent argument that health and safety is a crucial underpinning of the human right to life and, as such, the attacks upon it, ironically called Better Regulation but essentially deregulation and enforcement cutting, constitute an attack on workers’ and citizens’ right to life.
She added “ We have long argued that the government has failed to provide a strong and effective system of regulation and enforcement of health and safety at work, adequately funded and independent of concern for business interests which complies with the ILO minimum standards and this breaches workers’ human rights. We believe that everyone has the right to go to work and come home from a shift alive and well, with their physical and mental health unimpaired in short or long term.
“Further we argue that the process of government attack on this already inadequate system, via un-evidenced, ideologically biased notions of ‘bonfires of red tape’, ‘ removing the ‘burden on business’, puts workers at more risk of losing their lives and health, and also led directly to the disaster at Grenfell which killed 72 citizens injured and traumatised hundreds more.
“ In our ‘We love Red tape better than bloody bandages’ campaign, 15,000- 20,000 postcards were sent to the Prime Minster demanding that Grenfell be the ‘enough is enough moment’ when the government deadly deregulation of health and safety was stopped.“
EHRC recognises, that the lack of a good health and safety protection continues to imperil tenants of blocks clad with similar combustible material and has published a paper ‘Following Grenfell: the right to life’ which develops the argument as to how the government is breaching human rights law..
Janet Newsham says: “ Deregulation, Better Regulation and slashing the funding for enforcement agencies – the Health and Safety Executive, Local Authorities, the Environment Agency, Building Control officers, etc – is a direct attack on the human right to go to work, use products, eat, breath, drink, enjoy leisure activities, and sleep safely in one’s home. It is a fundamental attack by government on our right to life. We feel it clearly breaches the paramount duty under human rights law which ‘requires the state to take appropriate steps within its power to effectively protect the lives of individuals and groups in situations where there is a known real risk to life, or where the authorities ought to have known that.’
“Enough is enough, the government must stop destroying an already inadequate protection system which allows work to harm millions every year killed 72 people at Grenfell, and puts workers and citizens at risk, and begin to develop a system that protects us all.”