No evidence for deregulating health and safety

Report by Hazards Campaign


Health and safety at work is only a joke if you are not on the receiving end of the lack of it

Hilda Palmer of the Hazards Campaign said:

The Hazards Campaign is alarmed that the ill-thought out, spurious review of health and safety proposed by the Conservatives before the election, is actually being carried out by the coalition government, with Lord Young reporting directly to the Prime Minister. There is a lack of evidence or fact to support the need or value of cutting regulation of health and safety, a lack of balance in failing to mention the burden on workers hurt or made ill, and the families of those killed, and failure to mention the massive cost of up to £30 billion per year of bad health and safety, the majority of which employers externalise onto all of us (1). This suggests the review is not a genuine evidence-based review, but more a foregone business-friendly conclusion, based on apocryphal bar room tales. Using non-workplace silly stories to attack the rights of all workers to safe healthy conditions is illogical, insulting and potentially deadly to workers and their families.

As we all watch the BP-caused disaster playing out in the Gulf of Mexico, where a multi-national serial killing corporation killed 11 workers and is now devastating the livelihoods of many more, the lesson painfully accepted by the US government is that there has been too little regulation and enforcement; that government has been far too influenced by business lobbying to reduce their regulatory ’burden’, and that the cost of business behaving badly is paid by the wider society.”

Hilda Palmer added:

Given the choice, the people around the Gulf of Mexico would probably vote for tighter regulations than trying to put the oil back in BP’s well. We need to remind the government that none of us voted to die at work in the last election (2), and that any reduction in the regulation of health and safety and of its enforcement, will hurt, make ill and kill more workers and members of the public, and cost the economy £billions more we don’t have. The government must learn from the failure to regulate the financial sector business which has created the current deficit we are now being told we must pay, and from Stockline, Buncefield, numerous train disasters, and every workplace death, injury and illness. The logical answer is to give directors legal duties for health and safety, and to hold them and all employers more accountable by strict enforcement and penalties, to prevent more costs we cannot pay (3). Attacking health and safety is illogical and gives the lie to the government claims that ’We are all in it together’ as any decrease in regulation and enforcement of workers safety and health will kill and hurt more of us, not them!

Health and Safety at work is only a joke if you are not on the receiving end of the lack of good health and safety management, like the hundreds of thousands of workers who get injured, killed or made ill by totally preventable incidents every year (4). Most of the spurious examples quoted by Lord Young are not about health and safety in workplaces, many seem frankly apocryphal, are about health and safety being used as an excuse, or are about compensation, yet successive Government reports have found there is not a compensation culture, and less than one in ten workers receives any form of compensation (5) It isn’t clear what health and laws could be repealed to stop the nonsenses to which Lord Young refers, but the suggestion that police and emergency service workers should have their human rights to safe work reduced is outrage. Any review of health and safety must look at the cost of poor health and safety and who pays, and examine the immense burden on workers and the families of those killed at work, and on the whole of society, to understand the full costs of employers’ failure to obey the law.

Added to the incalculable emotional cost of work-related injury, illness and death, the costs of bad health and safety fall mostly on families and the state in health and benefit cost, but the employers who cause this pay less than 25% of the up to £30 billion cost to society (1). The ’ burdens on business’ claims must be examined much more critically.”

For more information contact Hilda Palmer 0161 636 7557


1. ’Who Pays? You do!’ Hazards Magazine 106

2. ’We did not vote to die at work’ Hazards 110

3. Spot the idiotic inconsistency, Hazards Green Jobs blog

4. ’The Whole Story’ up to 1, 500 killed in workplace incidents and up to 50, 000 dying due to work-related illnesses every year in the UK Safety and Health Practitioner December 2008

5. ’A little bit of compensation’ Hazards Magazine

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