no embargo - 25 June 2013 Back to news releases
FACK is furious at Government release of misleading and inaccurate PR on Work Experience and Health and Safety which we fear will put children at greater risk
The DWP Press Release on 21st June (1) DWP PR states: “The latest stage of Government’s commitment to debunking health and safety myths, and slashing burdensome rules, has seen Ministers today outline plans to make it as easy as possible for employers to take on work experience students ”
Families Against Corporate Killers spokesperson says: “We have no problems with making laws easier to understand to keep children safe. But this DWP statement is an ideological fact-free, business-friendly, inaccurate, misleading and dangerous statement from the government. It is inaccurate on the law on health and safety for children on work-experience placements, and by encouraging employer complacency may further endanger children. It is absolutely shocking that it is uncritically, enthusiastically, and also legally inaccurately supported by the HSE, supposedly the watchdog whose mission is ’the prevention of death, injury and ill health to those at work and those affected by work activities.’
She continued: “We suggest that before the government mistakenly label health and safety rules too ‘burdensome’ for our children, they look at the facts: over the last decade, at least 5 under 19s have been killed each year and up to 5,000 seriously injured at work. This is not due to too much, but too little health and safety. For 2011/12, HSE’s statistics show 4 under-19 males were killed in work-related incidents (7 year before), 415 male and 256 females suffered major injury, and 1,162 male and 733 females suffered an over 3 day injury (2). This is why they need protection.”
An open letter to employers from Ministers Mark Hoban, Vince Cable, Matthew Hancock, Oliver Letwin and Michael Fallon says: “Employers have been hampered in the past by thinking they have to do special risk assessments for young people, and even having to repeat the same assessment for every young person they give a chance of work experience, even though the circumstances were exactly the same.”(3)
FACK says that these Ministers are wrong and this is exactly what the law does require employers to do! And even worse is the HSE’s endorsement of this legally incorrect advice:
“The HSE which has been recently been severely criticised by professional occupational health and safety bodies for issuing misleading press statements, goes along with this in a most cynical, disgusting and dangerous fashion. The new HSE advice (4) fails to explicitly and correctly state the legal requirements for young people on work-experience. It merrily goes along with the government’s ‘employer knows best’, rosy spectacled view of work. The real world is one where many employers are not already managing risk effectively, do not carry out suitable and sufficient risk assessments, nor do they supervise, train and monitor safe systems of work adequately for their existing employees, let alone for young, inexperienced, vulnerable young people coming into a workplace for the first time. Such employers need no government encouragement not to bother, and for this to come from the HSE is inexplicable and shocking. Who is standing up for workers health and safety now?”
The PR states that the ‘HSE has issued guidance providing clarity on employers’ obligations with regard to risk assessments - making it clear that if workplace risk has already been assessed with young people in mind, a business does not need to repeat this for each new student.’ The statement on HSE’s website reiterates this sentiment: ‘Employers should already be managing the risks in their workplaces and are best placed to assess whether or not they need to do anything additional for a new young person joining them.’
FACK says: “This is just plain wrong and will mislead many employers who will only read the PR and the HSE advice paragraph and not look further at the detailed links which do in fact make the law clear. HSE advice statement fails to accurately restate the legal requirements currently in place which are essential to ensure the safety and health of young people. According to the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, Regulation 3 (1) requires employers to undertake suitable and sufficient risk assessments in reaction to the health and safety of young people. Regulation 3 (5) sets out what an employer must take account of, starting with the inexperience and immaturity, lack of awareness of risk and immaturity of young people. Regulation 19 ‘Protection of young persons’ also requires employers to make risk assessments relating to the specific young person’s physical and psychological capacity, not a generic, general assessment. Children vary enormously in physical and mental capabilities, not just size and strength, but some may have physical disabilities, medical conditions, behavioural and learning difficulties, and all these factors must be included in the risk assessment or it will be invalid as not ‘suitable and sufficient’. Control measures for individual children may then vary accordingly, such as the level of supervision needed and the task permitted. Suggesting that employers do nothing because they have already done a risk assessment before, is not a legally correct option.
Both the DWP Press Release, and the HSE’s statement fail to mention the requirement in Regulation 10 of The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, that employers must provide the young person and the parents of children - those under the normal school leaving age- with comprehensible and relevant information on the risks identified by an assessment, and the preventative and protective measures to be followed.
Linda Whelan a founder FACK ,member says : “Alongside the open letter to employers, we feel there is a need for an open Ministerial letter to parents and to young people themselves on their health and safety rights, the legal requirements on employers, and where they can go for further information and advice. The DWP Press Release and the HSE statement seem intended to let employers off the hook and may lull parents into a false sense of security they may later regret. Parents need to know that their children are going to be safe at work, that employers are carrying out the legal checks that all parents would assume are being done.
In January in Bury, Cameron Minshull, a 16 year old apprentice, was killed by an incident with a lathe, while working at an engineering business, days after David Cameron had spoken in Preston to business people, blasting silly health and safety rules for stopping young people getting work experience. The government has classified such engineering workplaces as ‘low risk’ and banned the HSE and Local Authorities from carrying out proactive inspections that spot health and safety problems and put them right before someone is hurt, in such ‘low risk’ workplaces.
As Cameron Minshull’s mum, Joanne Hill, said ‘I thought my son was safe at work on a government approved apprenticeship but he wasn’t. I have heard that the government has relaxed health and safety rules for young people at work, and wants to cut them even more. I think this is very wrong and I fear for young people and their families. No-one is prepared to organise the funeral of their 16 year old child, and no-one should have to. My son should have been safe at work, and the government should ensure that everyone and especially young people on work-experience are safe and come home from work alive and well every day.”
Linda added: “We ask ministers whether they would send their own children to work in workplaces which their government has now falsely classified as ‘low risk’ such as manufacturing and engineering, and exempted them from preventative inspections, and especially those which are following their explicit advice, to treat health and safety less seriously?”
For more information contact FACK 0161 636 7557 or 079298 00240
FACK was established in July 2006, by and for families of people killed by the gross negligence of business employers, see www.fack.org.uk
Founder Members of FACK