Unite, the UK’s largest union, is warning that workers’ lives are being placed at risk due to the cut in the number of frontline health and safety inspectors.
Figures obtained by Unite, via a Freedom of Information request, reveal that since 2010 there has been a 25 per cent reduction in the number of Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors. In 2010 there were 1,311 frontline inspectors by 31 December 2016 that number had reduced to just 980.
Unite has released the figures just before International Workers’ Memorial Day to highlight the increasing lack of enforcement and safety protection in the workplace.
The cut in inspectors follows Unite’s revelation earlier this week, also acquired via an FOI that it takes three years four months on average from a fatal workplace accident until those responsible are brought to justice.
The HSE has been in the frontline of the Conservative’s obsession with cutting so called ‘red tape’. The organisation will see its funding cut by the end of this parliament to nearly half (a 46 per cent reduction) of what it was in 2010 and a series of safety laws have also been scrapped.
Unite acting general secretary Gail Cartmail, said, “HSE inspectors play a vital role in keeping workers safe. Rogue bosses who are prepared to break safety laws, are only kept in check by the fear of being caught and punished. Fewer inspectors mean more bosses willing to risk workers’ lives to boost profits.”
The cuts to the HSE and safety laws, have made the role of independent union safety reps increasingly vital in ensuring workers are safe at work. Despite this crucial role the Conservatives have sought to curtail the role and ability of safety reps to undertake their health and safety duties effectively.
Gail Cartmail added, “It is clear that the HSE is being denied the resources to undertake its role properly. In these circumstances it is more important than ever that union safety reps are given the training, support and time to conduct their duties and keep their fellow workers safe. However rather than boosting the rights and powers of safety reps the Conservative government has been intent on making their role even more difficult.
“All political parties need to give a pledge to make workplace safety a priority and commit to giving the HSE the proper resources to undertake its role effectively and ensure workers are safe at work.”