Because of a decrease of one-quarter in frontline health and safety inspectors in just seven years, Unite warned that workers’ lives are in danger.
Following a Freedom of Information request, Unite found that since 2010 there has been a 25 per cent reduction in the number of Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors.
According to the report, the number of frontline inspectors had dropped from 1,311 in 2010 to just 980 by the end of December 2016.
The cut in inspectors follows another FOI which revealed that it takes on average more than three years from a fatal workplace accident until those responsible are brought to justice.
“HSE inspectors play a vital role in keeping workers safe. Only the threat of being exposed and punished deters rogue bosses who are willing to break safety regulations. Workers will be more willing to put their lives on the line for profit if there are fewer inspectors “According to Gail Cartmail, acting general secretary of Unite.
“It’s obvious that the HSE isn’t getting the resources it needs to do its job correctly. Union safety representatives need more time, resources, and training than ever before to fulfil their responsibilities and keep their coworkers safe. However rather than boosting the rights and powers of safety reps the Conservative government has been intent on making their role even more difficult.
“All political parties need to give a pledge to make workplace safety a priority and commit to giving the HSE the proper resources to undertake its role effectively and ensure workers are safe at work.”
According to a spokesperson for the Health and Safety Executive: “As one of the world’s safest places to work, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) conducts around 20,000 inspections each year, assesses and licences hazardous activities, investigates all incidents that meet the HSE Board’s selection criteria, and takes appropriate enforcement action. Investigations into fatalities, in particular, have seen a marked improvement in our abilities.
“For HSE, the construction industry is a top priority. We have teams of dedicated construction specialists across England, Scotland and Wales who target the highest risk sites and activities.
“We have been able to direct inspectors to more serious risks through improved targeting, but this has inevitably resulted in longer inspections. However, we do not measure our impact simply by counting the number of inspections.
“Additionally, we respond to concerns about unsafe construction activities and investigate incidents of ill health or injury, and we offer advice to employers and employees. We will continue to work tirelessly to raise the bar in the construction industry by utilising all of our options.”