no embargo - 15 October 2010 ( Back to news releases)
FACK is angry that the government’s blueprint for health and safety is a mass of unsubstantiated prejudices, myths and nonsense which won’t save a single worker from ill-health, death or injury.
Linzi Herberston FACK founder member says: “The Con Dem Government is trying to squeeze the very life from the health and safety laws to lessen the burden on business, when the true costs to the country in fatalities, ill health, and the care for bereaved family members can amount to tens of billions of pounds. Lord Young said he thought we (FACK) would be ‘pleasantly surprised’ but we are absolutely deflated, let down and utterly betrayed by the report. We feel it is a total waste of money, time and paper, it threatens to destroy the common safety of all workers being protected by the same laws and will be used as government policy to justify the cuts in enforcement to come.”
“The Chilean government spent £10 million pounds rescuing 33 workers and admitted that health and safety needs tightening up. The British government hope to save a few thousand pounds by allowing hundreds of workers to be killed and made ill, declaring health and safety is a waste of time and money. What a difference. And we think we are a civilized country!! Viva Chile” said FACK founder member Dorothy Wright.
The government’s blueprint for health and safety is going in the opposite direction, proposing measures not to make workers healthier or save lives but to reduce the ‘burden on business’ which are accepted as a fact rather than the very clear burden on workers, their families, and the state that picks up the tab for employers’ negligence and which is at least £30 billion every single year (1). This report rubbishes and trivializes health and safety and is little more than an ideological attack on workers’ safety, and even more on their health and welfare of which it is remarkable ignorant.
The report is based on false figures as according to the UK Statistics Authority the HSE does not produce national fatality figures (2). Every year up to 1,500 workers are killed in work-related incidents and up to 50,000 die every year die to illnesses they developed because of their work, plus millions are suffering ill-health caused by work (3). Some experts say we have more occupational ill-health than ever, much of it in so-called ‘non-hazardous’ workplaces like shops, school and offices.
FACK Facilitator Hilda Palmer say: “The report is called ‘Common Sense, Common Safety’ but it aims to divide workers by some arbitrary hazardous/non-hazardous line, and so destroy the universality of health, safety and welfare law which protects all workers in all workplaces from injury and ill-health. The report shows very clearly that common sense isn’t very common and he never lets the facts get in the way of a good tabloid scare story. It is a ludicrous mix of unsubstantiated prejudice, myth and muddle, extremely confused, mostly ignorant of the realities of working life, and existing law. It confuses other issues, such as food safety with occupational health and safety, and most importantly gives no evidence for any of his beliefs! Many of Lord Young’s suggestions and recommendations to enable employers to better comply with regulations are already in place or being developed anyway. Some of his suggestions would increase bureaucracy, are confusing, and some are frankly barking mad!”
Albert Einstein said "Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen." This report tends to confirm that, but members of FACK know only too well how common sense doesn’t protect workers.
Founder FACK member Louise Adamson: ”The Con- Dems’ answer for securing the health and safety of our nation is common sense, something they no doubt see as being without cost. How wrong they are. Because the cost of common sense as an answer in the health and safety arena is the highest cost of all - the loss of life of loved ones like ours who left for work never to return home. Common sense surely dictates that a fundamental safety procedure taught to all electricians during their apprenticeships would be implemented by the employer. But, over a 3 year period 7 electricians, including my wee brother, were killed as a result of a failure to do so. Common sense would have dictated that the inexpensive padlocks to lock off live wires would be provided by employers. But instead, suppliers didn't stock them because there was "no demand" from the electrical industry. Had my brother's employer exercised common sense he would be alive today. But they couldn't be trusted to do so. If the Con-Dem Government thinks common sense is the key to securing the health and safety of our nation, they should prepare to have blood on their hands.
“Health and safety is not a burden for employers, it is their fundamental responsibility to those they employ. When a loved one leaves for work, their family has the right to expect them home at the end of their working day. My wee brother didn't return in his work's van to the home he shared with his fiancée. Instead, he returned in a private ambulance to a funeral parlour”
Dorothy Wright adds “My son’s employer declared that the injuries sustained by employees were ‘part of the job’ and that my son’s death was just ‘fate’ the crown prosecutor described the employer as ‘incredibly stupid’ The fact is that some employer don’t have ANY common sense, which is why we need enforcement of clear health and safety regulations to protect employees lives and their health to ensure the ‘incredibly stupid employers’ know what is required.’"
“FACK feel this report will contribute to less safety and less health protection for all workers and so other families will have to suffer as we have done. It is a sick irony it comes out the day after the Chilean miners rescue and their government’s commitment to never again treat workers so inhumanely. It does not address workers' health and safety in any workplace and especially not now when we face job losses, cuts to our wages, fewer workers having to do more work, for longer hours, for more years, to collect less pension – if we live that long. FACK will be putting in a Freedom of Information request to find out the cost of this pointless review and strongly condemns this unevidenced report as any basis for government action. ” says Linzi Herbertson
For more information contact Linzi Herbertson 07709053176 or Hilda Palmer 0161 636 7557
Notes for Editors
FACK set up in 2006 is a group of families of those killed at work: www.fack.org.uk