Workplace Injury Expert Voices Concern Over HSE Inspections

Reports Suggest Reduction In Unannounced Visits

08.03.2011

Reports that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) could reduce the number of workplace inspections they carry out are deeply concerning, according to an accident at work specialist at Irwin Mitchell.

According to the BBC, a leaked letter has revealed unannounced assessments could be reduced by up to a third, as the organisation faces a 35 per cent reduction in its funding.

While some industries are set to be subject to unannounced visits, it has also been suggested that some categories of inspections will be withdrawn due to concerns over cost-effectiveness and whether they are necessary or useful.

David Urpeth, national of workplace injuries at Irwin Mitchell, recently advised BBC Radio 4’s File on 4 programme on the problems that a reduction in inspections could potentially lead to.

He explained: “My team and I regularly see the misery and devastation that is caused by accidents at work which have often come about due to the negligence of employers and their failure to follow the necessary regulations. The tragedy is that in most cases the accident could and should have been avoided.

“Inspections play a vital role in flagging trends and providing an insight into the risks which companies across a number of sectors are failing to protect their workers from.

“The HSE does excellent work and, while cuts are being seen across a number of public services, it is vital that those seen in the body do not impact on the quality of service and its ability to hold employers to account on key safety breaches.

“A reduction in inspections could reduce the visibility of the body and may lead companies to forget that health and safety needs to be a priority on their agendas. In addition, any reduction would reduce the deterrent effect of inspections.

“Over recent years, we have seen the numbers of those killed and seriously injured at work falling. Whilst the reduction is to be welcomed, more needs to be done. Workers deserve to be able to go to work and return home safely at the end of the day. 

“It would be incredibly disappointing if any reductions in HSE activity lead to a rise in both workplace injuries and illness, and every care must be taken to ensure this does not happen.

“Very recently, my firm had a serious work accident case before the Court of Appeal. In deciding in favour of our client, the judge gave a ruling in which the failure of a warehouse operator to properly risk assess certain tasks and to ensure that staff could work in proximity to one another in safety was central. It is difficult to imagine that such failings will be less frequent if fewer inspections are taking place.”