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no embargo - 24 August 2011( Back to news releases)

Grayling bothered about bumper cars at Butlins but canít be bothered to meet those burdened by health and safety failures!

Mr Grayling MP
Minister for Work and Pensions,
Department for Work and Pensions,
Caxton House,
Tothill Street,
London, SW1H 9DA
24th August 2011

Dear Mr Grayling

Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK) is writing you this open public letter in surprise that you had time in April to write to Butlins over the safety of bumper cars when, due to having no time in your diary, you have since May repeatedly refused to meet us, families of people killed by a lack of health and safety at their workplace, and who bear the real burden of poor health and safety.  We are not aware that you write public, open letters to companies which flout health and safety law daily, and due to far too little enforcement are not caught before they kill or harm workers or members of the public. We think you have your priorities wrong.

Your letter to Butlins in April, is featured as No 2 on the HSE’s list of ‘10 of the most bizarre health bans or restrictions spotted in media coverage by HSE over the last year’ just added to their website (1).  Your open letter states very clearly that the issue is not about too much health and safety law or too much enforcement, but the way it is interpreted. The issue is about public safety and insurance and not about workers safety.  Your statements completely undermine your continued attack on workplace safety in the publication of ‘Good Health and Safety, Good for Everyone’ in May which included a blanket 33% cut in proactive, preventative inspections, and the Lofstedt Review of legislation.  As you make clear it is not about the law but about interpretation and application, then the logical step is to focus on education, advice and guidance for employers, which makes the decision to close HSE Infoline in September even more perverse.  Instead you are using these non-work myths to portray workplace health and safety law as a burden on business that must be slashed.  Your letter to Butlins cuts the ground from under your feet, showing the attack on health and safety is based on a business friendly ideology, on myths not fact.  Banning bumper cars bumping won’t kill anyone, or make anyone sick, so surely you are wasting valuable ministerial time on this, rather than meeting with organisations such as FACK who can explain that it is the lack of compliance with the law, and lack of effective enforcement that is killing and harming people and massively burdening us, and the economy.  We feel you are undermining good employers, reinforcing the negligence of poor employers, and also undermining the confidence of local authorities to protect people.  We feel all these actions show very poor judgement which is likely to kill and injure more people. 

Your answer to a Parliamentary Question from Ian Lavery MP in June, put the cost of health and safety failures at £20 billion per year (2).  This is the bottom end of a £20-£31.8 billion HSE estimate, based on 10 year old prices, but does not include the cost of cancers and other long latency work-related conditions which would add another £20 billion at least.  What you do not explain is that the negligent employers who fail to take health and safety seriously and comply with the law, bear less than 25% of the cost of their actions, exporting the 75% of £40-£50 billion cost per year on to the whole economy- a tax on good employers and all of us alike!

On 25th July, FACK met Professor Lofstedt who is conducting your commissioned review on health and safety with a mind to removing burdens on business (3).  Professor Lofstedt gave us a very sympathetic hearing, and we provided him with all the evidence he required from us, to support our contention that it is we as individuals, as families, and the whole of society bear the real burden, not the employers (4).  We emphasised that regulation and enforcement didn’t kill anyone, but lack of them killed people we loved, and continue to kill workers and members of the public every single day.

Louise Taggart, founder member of FACK whose brother Michael was electrocuted at work due to negligence of his employers, eloquently summarises the feelings of all members of FACK which we feel you need to hear.

“Mr Grayling, were you and the HSE really serious about refocusing health and safety laws on their primary purpose - preventing death, injuries and illness caused by work –you would both have been better advised to provide a list of the top ten excuses used by negligent employers whose blatant disregard for health and safety laws results in heartbreak for far too many families on a daily basis.  Continuing to focus on these "elf and safety" excuses simply provides an opportunity for them to take up more column inches, reinforcing the poor regard in which health and safety is held by large sections of the general public.  The real impact of poor application of health and safety is felt by families like mine.  A 26 year old son, brother and fiancé was cut down in the prime of his life because his employer failed to implement fundamental safety procedures and provide essential safety equipment.  Every day we live with the consequences.  Those who think it's a good idea to continue publishing lists like today's would do well to spare a moment to consider how it would feel to have to kiss your brother on the forehead and say goodbye as he lies dead in a hospital bed.  It doesn't bear thinking about, does it? But that is the all too stark reality.  Publicising this aspect of health and safety failures would be far more likely to help save life and limb.”

We urge you once again to meet us, to show a real commitment to good health and safety and to properly protecting workers and members of the public from negligent employers.

Yours sincerely
Families Against Corporate Killers

C.C. Judith Hackitt, Chair of HSE Board
Geoffrey Podger, Chief Executive HSE

Founder Members of FACK established in July 2006
• Dawn and Paul Adams – son Samuel Adams aged 6 killed at Trafford Centre,10th October 1998
• Linzi Herbertson -husband Andrew Herbertson 29, killed at work in January 1998
• Mike and Lynne Hutin – son Andrew Hutin 20, killed at work on 8th Nov 2001
• Mick & Bet Murphy – son Lewis Murphy 18, killed at work on 21st February 2004
• Louise Taggart – brother Michael Adamson 26, killed at work on 4th August 2005
• Linda Whelan – son Craig Whelan 23, (and Paul Wakefield) killed at work on 23rd May 2004
• Dorothy & Douglas Wright – son Mark Wright 37, killed at work on 13th April 2005
26, killed at work on 4th August 2005

For more information contact Facilitator for FACK Tel 0161 636 7557

Notes for editors

1. HSE ‘10 bizarre health and safety bans over the last year’Chris Grayling's letter to Butlins

2. On the cost of unsafe work, Hazards green jobs blog, 16 June 2011

3. Loftedt Review Terms of Reference[pdf]

4 FACK submission to the Lofstedt Review [pdf]