The government’s attacks on Health
and Safety regulations are a smokescreen
the bigger problems facing the economy, UNISON
The union responded to the publication of
two new reports that claim the government is
sense’ back into Health and Safety. It
branded the coalition’s claim that regulations
are a barrier to growth ‘ridiculous’.
Robert Baughan, UNISON National Officer for
Health and Safety said: “The argument
against these regulations is ridiculous; if
Health & Safety is supposed to be a
burden and a barrier to jobs and growth why
then is the economy still in recession? The
real burden is the 20,000 people a year who
die through their work.
“The coalition has slashed Health and Safety
regulations in the same reckless, irresponsible
manner they have slashed public services.
“Health and Safety legislation is not
there to cause a headache to employers – it
is there to keep people safe at work. This
government has seen yet another opportunity
to chip away at the hard-won rights of workers,
and is putting the safety – and lives – of
workers at risk as a result.”
UNISON Scotland Health and Safety Chair, has
warned that planned UK legislation “will
mean that over 90% of our members’ personal
injury claims would fail.
He has sent a briefing
out to branches on the implications of the
to Section 47 of HSWA 1974. Scott explained: “The
House of Lords have made some amendments to
the more draconian element of the proposals.
There are still some opportunities to insert
amendments in the next few
From the TUC - Time for Change Manifesto
Regular safety inspections, a maximum temperature
in the workplace and far greater control of
carcinogens are just some of the improvements
that the TUC is calling for in a new ten point
safety manifesto published recently.
The report, Time for change, features ten
key recommendations which the TUC believes,
implemented by a future government, could help
turn around the UK's poor safety record, and
prevent a good many of the 20,000 workplace-related
deaths which occur in the UK every year.
TUC is also hoping its manifesto for change
will make the case for good health and safety
practice, in a climate where safety laws are
increasingly seen by ministers as unnecessary
burdens on business, and where spending cuts
and changes in regulations are making it more
difficult to police employers who play fast
and loose with their employees' safety.
for change says that rather than relaxing health
and safety laws as is the trend under
the current government, what is actually needed
is a variety of changes designed to improve
workplace safety and bring the UK more into
line with our European competitors.
The UK doesn't
have an amazing safety record, says the TUC.
In addition to the 20,000 -plus
workplace deaths, last year 1.8 million people
were living with an illness or injury caused
by their work and another 115,000 employees
had hurt themselves so badly at work they needed
to take at least three days off sick.
believes that urgent action is needed to prevent
the UK's safety record from getting
any worse, and says that the government's approach
to health and safety is placing more lives
and careers needlessly at risk.
Top of the TUC
list is the need for regular safety inspections
which, it believes, help
keep employers on their toes and much more
likely to give workplace safety a high priority
if they think a visit from a Health and Safety
Executive or local authority inspector is a
Unfortunately, says the
TUC manifesto, the government doesn't seem
to agree and from now
on only high risk workplaces like building
sites or workplaces with poor safety records
are to be inspected.
Another important safety
change would be the requirement for all workplaces
than ten people to have a union safety rep
and for that person to be able to call in the
appropriate safety authorities if they believe
that their employer is ignoring safety concerns.
for change says that the UK's 150,000 union
safety reps have already proved their
worth. As well as helping to save the economy
as much as £578m a year they prevent
up to 13,000 accidents and 8,000 work-related
illnesses a year.
Time for a change also says
that all workers should be given access to
services which could help prevent the occurrence
of around 450,000 cases a year of conditions
like stress, back pain and repetitive strain
injury. Very few employees currently have access
to such a service - if they did, huge savings
could be made, says the TUC. Workers injured
or made ill would need much less time off work
and would have a greater chance of being able
to return to their jobs, rather than becoming
dependent on benefits.
There are seven other
changes which the TUC believes could improve
workplace safety and
is calling for:
• The introduction of lower limits regarding
dust in the workplace - dust exposure kills
thousands of workers a year and can cause lung,
throat and nose cancers, as well as chronic
bronchitis and emphysema.
• Workers should no longer be exposed to cancer-causing
substances at work which would mean removing
carcinogens from the workplace completely -
perhaps changing production processes or using
other materials instead. This may not always
be possible - radiographers can't be completely
removed from radiation nor bus mechanics from
diesel exhaust - but the risk to the worker
can always be reduced, says the TUC.
• A new upper limit for a maximum temperature
at work which would be 30oC for employees working
indoors or 27oC for those involved in strenuous
work. This change should be accompanied by
a new legal duty on employers to protect staff
working outside in hot weather, by providing
them with sun protection and a ready supply
• The UK's current safety laws are failing to
protect groups of vulnerable workers - for
example domestic workers - so the TUC would
like to see a strengthening of the remit of
the Gangmasters Licensing Authority to cover
• A new legal duty on directors which would set
out the safety responsibilities of company
directors and change boardroom attitudes towards
company health and safety.
• Only firms which can demonstrate a good safety
record and a commitment to promoting the well-being
of their workforce should be allowed to bid
for public contracts.
• The UK should adopt and comply with
all the health and safety conventions of the
Labour Organisation (ILO). The government's
failure to ratify key ILO conventions including
those on asbestos, dock safety, construction,
agriculture, chemicals, home work, mining and
domestic workers is compromising the safety
of millions of UK workers, says the TUC.
on the safety manifesto, TUC General Secretary
Frances O'Grady said: 'Every year
20,000 people die needlessly because of an
accident or illness caused by their jobs,
and many thousands more are unable to work
of health problems which began at work. This
isn't just a national tragedy for the victims
and their families, but is also a huge drain
on the economy, costing the state billions
of pounds a year.
'It doesn't have to be this
way, but unfortunately ministers seem convinced
that despite the
high number of deaths and injuries at work,
regulations are too onerous on businesses
and rather than being tightened, need to
down or removed entirely. This is completely
the wrong approach, when what is needed
is tougher enforcement and new safety laws.
Our safety manifesto sets out how to do
- Time for change: A trade union manifesto
for reclaiming health and safety at
work is available at www.tuc.org.uk/healthandsafetymanifesto
- All TUC press releases can be found
- Follow the TUC on Twitter: @tucnews