From: Hazards Campaign Charter
Introduction To The Third Edition: Health And Safety An Agenda
This, the third edition of the Hazards Charter, was produced following
debate at the Tenth National Hazards Conference in Bristol, in March
1999 - nearly two years after the election of the Labour government.
It includes additions and amendments made at that conference and
sets out an agenda for action in the 21st century.
The Charter is a collective statement of the aims and demands of
the Hazards Campaign for a massive improvement in occupational health
and safety for all workers in the UK. It is not a finished document,
but an evolving document which reflects the current concerns amongst
activists regarding the hazards and health and safety problems faced
every day by people at work. Major changes since the last edition
include the key demand of Trade Union Safety Representatives to
have wider powers of inspection and authorisation to impose Provisional
Despite the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act and all the recent
European inspired Regulations, 4 million workers each year suffer
some form of work related ill-health, up to 3,000 are killed in
incidents in connection with work and 20,000 die from occupational
diseases. Penalties for Health & Safety breaches - even if they
kill or maim workers - are still derisory. The rate of workplace
inspections carried out by HSE Inspectors is now so low that, on
average, companies can expect a visit only once in every 17 years.
The present government has begun to reverse some of the worst acts
of the previous 18 years. Funding for the Health and Safety Executive
(HSE) has been improved. HSE Inspectors have been reminded of the
requirement to consult with safety representatives. The requirement
for Inspectors to advise employers in advance of the possibility
of an Improvement Notice being served has been removed. The government
has clearly stated that occupational safety and health is a priority
and that penalties for offenders should be raised. New legislation
for the offence of Corporate Killing is also being considered.
Is this enough? We welcome the efforts of the government so far
but urge greater speed and a higher priority for all occupational
safety and health issues. We call on the government to give serious
consideration to this charter and the introduction of our major
demands. A major fear of Hazards Campaigners is that the government's
efforts to be fair to business and enterprise threaten worker's
health and safety, as employers tend to take this as a licence to
continue killing and maiming workers in pursuit of bigger profits,
economies or targets. The government is very keen on partnership
between trade unions and employers. The Hazards Campaign demands
the only meaningful partnership that can deliver improved health
and safety: a partnership of equals. The government must adopt the
demands of this Charter which will enhance and empower the trade
union and workers side of the partnership and it must ensure employers
compliance with all health and safety law through rigorous enforcement.
The government's present philosophy of partnership is the existing
abusive partnership that kills, maims and diseases millions annually.
The cost of industrial disease and serious injuries at work is not
only borne by the victims, their families also pay a terrible price.
The cost to the nation and the economy, just in terms of welfare
benefits and the burdens placed on the NHS, runs to billions of
pounds each year. By comparison, the sums awarded to victims in
compensation are insignificant.
This Charter is radical in the sense that it points out that at
the end of the 20th Century people in Britain are still dying from
causes that could be stopped now with appropriate political will.
We know the causes; we know what to do. What is lacking are the
resources and clear political will to take action. 1999 is the 25th
anniversary of the Health and Safety at Work Act and the 21st
anniversary of the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees
Regulations. A great deal has changed in the last 25 years and the
assumptions underlying the Health & Safety at Work Act no longer
hold true. The legislation does not fit easily with the enormous
changes in employment patterns that have occurred since 1974. In
1999 we have a hugely increased number of workers in workplaces
not represented by trade unions, mostly small, medium and even micro
sized enterprises. We have seen an explosion of the "contract
culture" - contracting out, out-sourcing, privatisation - an
increase in 'self employment', in homeworking, the casualisation
of large groups of peripheral workers through agency work and short
term, temporary contracts. A smaller group of core workers are managing
to hold onto their higher standards, for the moment. All of this
has reduced the standards of health and safety for all workers,
but impacted particularly on these marginalised peripheral workers.
These developments have led to an increase in insecurity, fear,
harassment and bullying, and the stress-related illnesses that follow,
for all workers.
The government is presently reviewing safety reps rights and health
and safety legislation generally. The Hazards Campaign calls on
the government to take this opportunity to revitalise health and
safety law by recognising and enhancing the role of trade unions
and the trade union safety representative who already save lives,
by giving them more powers. We call on the government to give workers
more control over their own working conditions and by strict and
rigorous enforcement to ensure absolute compliance by all employers
with all health and safety legislation NOW.
The National Hazards Campaign
The Hazards Campaign is a national network established in 1988,
financed by donations from supporting groups and individuals. It
draws together Hazards Centres, Occupational Health Projects, health
and safety groups and Trades Union Councils' Safety Committees,
specific campaigns and individual health and safety activists. Specific
campaign groups include the Construction Safety Campaign, bereaved
relatives groups, asbestos support groups, RSI support groups, pesticide
sufferers groups, campaigns against hazards affecting black and
ethnic minority groups and toxic waste groups.
The campaign works by: sharing information and skills; campaigning
on specific issues; acting as a national voice; issuing press releases;
holding conferences; establishing national initiatives, including
Workers Memorial Day,; lobbying MPs, MEPs and statutory bodies.
The Campaign organises the annual Hazards Conference and holds meetings
about five times a year which are open to anyone sharing the aims
of the campaign.