CWU welcomes call for HSE to “up its game”January 31 2019
A wide-ranging review of the HSE, which calls on the government agency responsible for the enforcement of workplace health, safety and welfare to “up it’s game on safety inspections and prosecutions”, has been warmly welcomed by the CWU.
Crucially, the ‘Tailored Review of The HSE – which was commissioned by the Department of Work and Pensions – challenges many of the changes that were forced on the HSE by the Tory/LibDem Coalition and subsequent Conservative governments, making a total of 27 recommendations.
CWU national health & safety officer Dave Joyce said: “The review is generally positive about the HSE but also makes a number of recommendations that will reassure a lot of those who’ve been concerned about the direction the HSE has been going since 2010.
“That’s when the Tory/LibDem coalition government instructed the HSE to stop all proactive safety inspections in the vast majority of sectors, including the communications industry. Royal Mail Group and BT Group, amongst others, were categorised as ‘Low Risk’ industries – which is nonsense – and in came the so called ‘light-touch’ approach and deregulatory agenda, removing so-called ‘burdens on business’.”
The resulting decline in safety inspections was dramatic. In the local authority inspected sector the number of proactive inspections fell by an astonishing 97 per cent between 2010 and 2016 – while the overall number of inspections, including HSE inspected sectors, fell by 65 per cent.
Because of the fall in inspections, both prosecutions and enforcement activity fell as well.
The TUC and CWU, along with all the major UK trade unions, have long argued that the move away from proactive inspections and enforcing authority staff cuts was a political move and not one based on evidence.
In vigorous campaigning on the issue, the trade union movement has also pointed out that the HSE approach to inspections was far more likely to find breaches of safety, where serious injuries have to be reported, rather than health. Proactive inspections continue to expose a material breach rate of 45-50 per cent, demonstrating the value of this form of intervention in removing risks from the workplace.
Importantly, the new DWP-commissioned report calls on the HSE to address these points. It asks for inspection and enforcement to be based on evidence of the best outcomes. Crucially, there is a recommendation that the HSE maximise the impact of interventions on workplace health, which means focusing ever-strained HSE resources on what works to remove risks.
Equally welcome is the proposal that the HSE should consider taking on more challenging prosecutions. This would include areas that the HSE has shied away from in the past decade, such as work-related stress.
The report also looks at the composition of the HSE board. The Coalition Government and subsequent Tory governments have attempted to the alter balance on the board and reduce the trade union/workers voice by refusing to appoint trade union nominations to the board.
The requirement for three worker seats has been under threat and it was only after a high profile campaign by the TUC, CWU and other unions that the Government eventually back off – having delayed advertising Workers Representative HSE Board Seat vacancies for two years.
Key recommendations in the report call for:
- The tripartite structure of the HSE Board to be retained – involving Trade Union seats and to avoid delays in filling vacancies in future.
- The HSE to enhance its interventions to maximise its impact on work-related ill health.
- The HSE to take on more prosecutions.
CWU national health & safety officer Dave Joyce concludes: “These recommendations support the views campaigned on by the TUC, CWU and others in recent years – during which time the HSE and Local Authority H&S regulation and enforcement have come under sustained attack by Government.
“The report recommendations are a strong reminder to the current Government that the HSE is there for a reason – namely to protect and improve the health and safety of workers and the public by enforcing H&S Laws – and that it is NOT a commercial organisation chasing profits.”
The Full Report has been published and is attached to Letter To Branches 061/19.s