HSE neglecting 80% of UK construction sites

September 26, 2016 / Isla MacFarlane
HSE neglecting 80% of UK construction sites

Funding cuts are blamed on the fact that a health and safety rep has never set foot in 80% of the UK’s most hazardous workplaces.

More than 80% of construction workplaces in the UK have never had a health and safety inspection, according to a new TUC survey of health and safety reps.

In the hazardous construction industry – where there were 65,000 work-related injuries and 67,000 work related illnesses in 2015 – just one in six (17%) of reps was aware of an inspection in the last year.

By 2019/20 government funding of the HSE will have been slashed by nearly half, and in recent years, local councils have reduced workplace inspections by 97%. The government has also restricted the ability of workers to claim compensation if they are injured or made ill at work following employer negligence.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “I am appalled that 80% of reps in construction say their workplaces haven’t been inspected. Construction workplaces can be some of the most dangerous places to work.

“Huge cuts to the HSE and to local authorities continue to undermine vital safety protections at work. That means more workers at risk of accidents in unsafe workplaces every day. It’s time to fund the HSE properly and make sure bosses know that they can’t get away with chancing workers’ lives in dangerous workplaces.”

Earlier this month the TUC condemned the government’s appointment of a former employer and business leader to a seat on the board of the HSE that is reserved for a representative of workers’ interests.

The Health and Safety at Work Act requires the Secretary of State to appoint three members of the HSE after consulting organisations representing employees, and three members after consulting employers’ representatives.

However, the government has filled one of the employee representative seats with an employer representative, who has no background representing workers and was not nominated or supported by any bodies who represent workers. The TUC is concerned that the move is the latest in a series of government actions to silence the voices of working people on health and safety at work.

“This survey result is astonishing,” said UCATT Acting General Secretary, Brian Rye. “What is the point of the HSE if they don’t inspect? UCATT health and safety reps, shop stewards and convenors spend their working lives trying to protect British construction workers, the very least we could expect from our Government is some support.

“If there are effectively no health and safety inspections by the HSE then unscrupulous employers will neglect the safety of their workers, if it means they can save money. This Tory Government’s wilful neglect of the British worker is tantamount to creating a wild west in the workplace – and we all know the consequences of such neglect will be injuries and maybe lives lost for construction workers. It is utterly shameful.”

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