Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by the Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph & Theatre Union (HSE 02)


  In common with the trade union movement as a whole, the Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU) deplores the reduction in HSE resources over recent years. This has to a large degree forced the organisation to step back from its intended role of comprehensive examination of workplace health and safety practices, and enforcement of the law. Instead it has, in our perception, been forced to resort to various forms of sectoral "auditing" or "sampling".

  The trend to labour-market flexibility, casualisation and fragmentation—especially evident in areas where BECTU operates such as film and TV production—means that we need more Inspectors on the ground, not less.

  Given all the evidence demonstrating the cost to the economy of injury and ill-health, we believe that an increase in HSE resources should be seen not as a drain on public funds, but as an investment in a healthy and prosperous workforce.


  To pick up on a point made above, the HSE needs to develop new structures and practices to address flexible and casualised patterns of employment. Many workers now earn their livings by moving from one short-term contract to another. Whether we call them casual, freelance, or "self-employed", the HSE's own figures demonstrate that they are more vulnerable to work-related accidents and ill-health than their permanently-employed colleagues. One of the causal factors here is that many employers believe—wrongly—that they are not responsible for the health and safety of freelance or casual workers.

  Possible HSE initiatives in this area might include:

    —  formal support for trade union initiatives such as Roving Safety Reps;

    —  establishing structures for ongoing health surveillance of casual/freelance workers whose work exposes them to occupational health hazards;

    —  a publicity drive to dispel employers' misconceptions about their responsibility for the health safety and welfare of casual/freelance workers.


  There needs to be much more effective co-ordination of services dealing with occupational health. This might take the form initially of a more formal link between the Employment Medical Advisory Service and local NHS services including GPs. The reality today is that the UK has no Occupational Health Service worthy of the name.

Martin Spence

Supervisory Official

September 1999

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Prepared 26 October 1999