Memorandum submitted by Thompsons Solicitors
1. Funding of the Health and Safety Executive
The HSE is at a crossroads. It does an excellent
job where it can but despite all Government evidence showing that
poor health and safety costs the UK economy £billions every
year, grossly inadequately funding means the HSE is unable to
fulfil its primary role of enforcement/accident prevention. Its
investigation of reported major injuries is at very low levels.
There are simply not enough inspectors with
the result that there are not enough visits to workplaces meaning
that employers can pay lip service to health and safety (H&S),
safe in the knowledge that the chance of a visit is statistically
remote. Recent job losses and expenditure cutbacks (which it is
reported is in part a management decision to build up reserves
and may lead to an underspend of £millions this year) will
significantly reduce yet further the capacity of the HSE to be,
in practice, anything other than reactive.
What is the correlation between
proactive workplace inspection and accident reduction in a workplace?
What is the average cost of
workplace inspection and what is the average cost to society of
a workplace injury?
Will there be any underspend
at the HSE this year?
2. The Division of Safety Enforcement
The division of safety enforcement between the
HSE and local authorities is an anomaly.
Section 18 of the Health and Safety at Work
Act 1974 requires local authorities to make "adequate arrangements"
for enforcement. However, separate funding by each local authority
results in widespread variation in performance and enforcement.
Does the HSE see enforcement
If it does is it satisfied that
their work is enhanced by local authority involvement in enforcement
or are resources wasted by inconsistent enforcement levels?
3. Construction Deaths
There has been a rise in fatalities in the construction
industry. For some years safety statistics have flat-lined. The
system of employment has become increasingly fragmented with the
management of projects increasingly remote from the men and women
(often employed by sub contractors and sub sub contractors) working
on the ground. Large employers blame small builders but all in
the industry must face up to their responsibilities.
Is the HSE satisfied at the
level of construction site injuries?
Is the HSE concerned that the
Construction Strategic Forum is effectively moribund due to a
lack of employer engagement?
Does the HSE see a significant
role for roving safety reps?
4. Boardroom engagement with H&S
The Corporate Manslaughter Corporate Homicide
Act partly rectifies the anomaly of corporate immunity from prosecution
but for Directors themselves there exists only a voluntary code
from the Institute of Directors "reminding them" that
it is their responsibility to "lead" on H&S.
Does the HSE see any difference
between the importance of say, Human Resources (which almost always
has board level allocated responsibility) and H&S? Would the
HSE be assisted and be able to deliver better value if the guidance
given by the HSE to boards of directors was legally enforceable?