Safety Inspection Approach ‘Cannot Put Lives At Risk’

Expert Reacts After Research Raises Concerns Over HSE Changes

15.01.2013

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Government have been urged by specialist workplace injury lawyers to recognise the important role that inspections play in keeping workers safe, after a new report raised concerns in relation to the number of sectors subject to checks.

Compiled by the University of Stirling’s Professor of Occupational Health Policy Research, Rory O’Neill, the first consolidated list of sectors excluded from unannounced inspections as a result of directives published in March 2011, with the affected industries including agriculture, quarries and plastics, as well as electricity generation and supply

The research also found 53 per cent of the 258 workplace deaths in Britain in HSE-enforced workplaces between April 2011 and October 2012 occurred in these sectors not subject to unannounced inspections. Specific analysis of the findings in Scotland also revealed that 60 per cent of worker fatalities in the country in same period were in uninspected sectors.

It is also believed that reactive inspections after reported injuries have also fallen, with just five per cent of incidents defined as involving ‘major injuries’ by the HSE.

Irwin Mitchell’s team of specialist workplace injury lawyers offer legal support everyday to people who have suffered serious injuries in accidents at work, helping them to gain answers and justice over the problems they have endured.

David Urpeth, national head of workplace injury at Irwin Mitchell, said: “The economic climate has meant it was always inevitable some change in the way the HSE operates would be seen, but we have always urged that the organisation ensures that any changes do not impact on the safety of workers.

“Inspections, particularly unannounced checks, have historically had a significant impact on safety. Such work means employers are always aware of the importance of meeting their responsibilities, as well as subsequently held to account when failings have been identified.

“This new research has raised very serious concerns over changes to inspections and we would encourage the HSE and Government to carefully consider these findings, with a view to ensuring that the approach adopted is proportionate and not having an adverse impact in specific sectors.”

Urpeth added that employers also need to understand the importance of safety, adding: “We would also encourage firms and bodies in all of the sectors excluded from unannounced visits to recognise that all workers should be able to go to work safe in the knowledge that their safety is a major priority.

“Health and safety must always be top of their agenda and an impending inspection should not be the sole catalyst which leads them to consider the issue.”