Memorandum submitted by 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, Hazards magazine, occupational
health advisory services, health and safety groups, safety reps
networks and Trades Union Councils' Safety Committees, specific
campaigns and individual health and safety activists. Specific
campaign groups include the Construction Safety Campaign, Families
Against Corporate Killers, Asbestos Victim Support Groups, RSI
support 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.
DOES HSE PROTECT?
HSE's desperately poor safety enforcement record
just took a turn for the worse. Now 9 out of 10 major injuries
don't result in an investigation, HSE inspections have hit a new
low and the last two years have seen the worst enforcement performance
on record. Hazards editor Rory O'Neill says only dangerous employers
now have reason to feel safe.
Fatalities up 241 worker deaths in 2006-07
compared to 217 in 2005-06, an 11% increase.
Fatality Rate up 0.8 workers killed per
100,000 in 2006-07 compared to 0.72 per 100,000 in 2005-06, a
Inspections Down 41,496 HSE inspections
in 2006-07 compared to 54,717 in 2005-06, a 24% decrease.
Inspection Rate Down HSE enforced workplaces
in 2006-07 could expect an inspection on average once every 14.5
years, compared to once ever seven years in 2001-02.
Investigations Down the proportion of
major injuries investigated by HSE fell to 11% in 2005-06 from
13% in 2004-05.
Prosecutions remain Low 1,056 offences
prosecuted by HSE in 2005-06 compared to 1,320 in 2004-05, a fall
of 20%. Convictions dropped by 10%. Provisional figures for 2006-07
show a minor improvement in prosecutions and convictions, but
the last two years remain the worst on record.
Notices Remain Low 6,593 enforcement
notices issued by HSE in 2005-06 compared to 8,471 in 2004-05,
a fall of over 22%. Prohibition notices were down by 18% and improvement
notices by 24%. The provisional total notices figure rose to 8,071
in 2006-07, but the last two years remain the worst on record.
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors
undertook 13,221 fewer inspections last year, a drop of over 24%.
Figures obtained by Hazards show HSE's main inspection section,
the Field Operations Division (FOD), recorded just 41,496 inspections
on its COIN database in 2006-07, down from 54,717 in 2005-06.
Although a change of recording methods mean
the figures are not directly comparable with those for earlier
years (Hazards 95), they do show inspections have now fallen dramatically
year on year since 2002-03 and have reached a new low. While the
number of inspections has crashed over the last five years, the
number of workplaces covered by HSE has increased by 20%, meaning
workplace are only visited about once every 14.5 years, down from
once very seven years in 2001-02.
A series of Freedom of Information Act requests
from Hazards revealed other evidence of a massive deterioration
in the safety oversight provided by HSE.
Its "decision reporting forms" reveal
the number of incidents so serious investigation should follow
automatically but where no investigation has occurred because
of "inadequate resources" has increased from 207 in
2005-05, to 255 in 2005-06 and to 307 in 2006-07 (Hazards 99).
The proportion of reported major injuries that
were investigated by HSE has also dropped, down from 13% in 2004-05
to 11% in 2005-06.
Enforcement activity has also plummeted. Final
figures for 2005-06 published on the HSE website on 1 November
2007 show HSE prosecuted 1,056 offences that year, down from 1,320
in 2004-05, a fall of 20%. Convictions secured dropped to 840,
down from 1,025 in 2004-05, a drop of over 18%. The provisional
HSE prosecutions figure for 2006-07 is 1,141, a minor improvement,
and the provisional convictions figure rose from 840 to 848. However,
the two most recent years represent the worst HSE enforcement
Source: HSE: http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/enforce/index.htm
The total number of enforcement notices issued
by HSE fell to 6,593 in 2005-06 from 8,471 in 2004-05, a fall
of over 22%. Prohibition notices issued by HSE fell to 2,668 in
2005-06 compared to 3,285 in 2004-05, down almost 18%. Improvement
notices fell to 3,952 from 5,186, down almost 24%. After a major
effort to reverse the fall in notices, the number issued by HSE
in 2006-07 rose to 8,071, but the last two years remain the worst
Source: HSE: http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/enforce/index.htm
There are serious concerns the enforcement crisis
at HSE will worsen, as further funding cuts bite. HSE has already
lost over 250 jobs since April 2006 and faces a further 100 job
losses in the second half of the financial year. HSE is grappling
with the news that the anticipated 15% budget cut by 2011 to meet
Treasury efficiency targets may in fact be larger still.
Chancellor Alistair Darling's announcement that
HSE's parent department DWP would take a 5.6% hit year on year
from 2008-10 was 12% more than the 5% cut it had been led to believe
was on the cards.
Since 2002, HSE has lost over 1,000 posts as
a result of government spending cuts; HSE union Prospect says
the organisation now employs fewer than 3,250 staff, down from
over 4,000 when Labour took office.
According to a September 2007 TUC briefing,
workplace safety should be a high law enforcement priority, noting
"18,000 violent crimes a year require hospital treatment
whereas there are 39,000 workplace major injuriesthings
like amputations, fractures to limbs, serious burns, or injuries
requiring at least 24 hours in hospital."
But as HSE struggled this year to cope with
a crippling funding crisis it was pushed into areas of work with
no relevance to workers' healthincluding taking the lead
on and footing the £100,000 bill for the investigation into
this summer's Foot and Mouth outbreak linked to the Pirbright
laboratory near Guildford. Foot and Mouth is a non-fatal disease
of animals presenting no risk at all to humans.
According to Mike Macdonald, negotiations officer
with HSE inspectors' union Prospect, the cash-strapped watchdog
cannot meet its public expectations to advise, inspect and enforce
workplace health and safety. Better funding for the HSE would
be good for workers concerned about their safety, employers seeking
advice and the taxpayer who meets the costs of higher benefit
and insurance because of rising accident rates.
The campaign group Families Against Corporate
Killers (FACK) feel that the massive, unacceptable decline in
already inadequate policing of health and safety means the workplace
is an enforcement-free zone and deaths and injuries will continue
to rise.. Employers cannot be trusted to protect health and safety
without a credible threat that they will be caught and punished,
preferably before someone is hurt or killed. FACK is in correspondence
with the Minister, Peter Hain, to make clear that families of
those killed by work will not tolerate this failure of law enforcement
and FACK expects urgent action to police the workplace.
A multi-million pound government funded project
designed to provide advice on workplace health issues to small
and medium-sized firms is failing dramatically in achieving this
goal, with almost nine out of 10 calls received not workplace
Workplace Health Connect, launched with a budget
approaching £20 million in February 2006 as a semi-detached
offshoot of the Health and Safety Executive, quickly attracted
criticism. An evaluation four months into the project found only
7% of calls were on workplace health issues, the remainder on
safety issues already catered for by HSE awareness advisers and
the HSE Infoline.
Now an Institution for Employment Studies evaluation
of WHC's first 16 months in operation has found "the data
demonstrates that the adviceline is primarily of interest to employers
as a source of advice about safety related matters, although about
11% of callers did ring with a specific health enquiry."
Advisers could only introduce health issues with callers requesting
information on other issues in just over 15% of cases.
The report notes "overall call levels to
the adviceline remain well below the initial targets." Just
over 9,000 calls were received in the evaluation period, from
February 2006 to May 2007, or about 20 calls a day. This suggests
just a couple of calls each day were on a workplace health issues,
WHC's key purpose.
The two-person health and safety campaigning
magazine Hazards, commented that they answer more health-based
queries before breakfast, and we have no budget for advice work.
Compared to primary care based occupational health projects and
workers' health and safety advice centres like Greater Manchester
Hazards Centre, Workplace Health Connect is a multi-million pound
disaster and a costly flop. This money could be better targeted
and much better used.
HSC/E stats news release, 1 November 2007 http://www.hse.gov.uk/press/2007/c07020.htm
HSC news release, 1 November 2007,: http://www.hse.gov.uk/press/2007/c07019.htm
statistics 2005-06 webpage http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/enforce/index.htmand
statistics webpages http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/index.htm
Self-reported work related illness and workplace
injuries in 2006-07: top-level tables.
Workplace Health Connect: July Progress report,
HSE, published online 30 October 2007,
Workplace Health Connect http://www.workplacehealthconnect.co.uk/