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March 14, 2013

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Hostile’ political climate gives added weight to safety guide

In publishing a new edition of its workplace safety guide, the TUC says cuts in HSE enforcement activity have made the document more important than ever.

Now in its 30th year, ‘Hazards at work’ describes how a “hostile” political climate to health and safety has resulted in pressure on the HSE to withdraw completely from carrying out proactive inspections in certain sectors.
The Government has cut the HSE budget by 35 per cent, and local-authority safety inspection teams are also working with substantially reduced funding.

According to the TUC, these cuts are coming at a time when the UK’s health and safety record is deteriorating. In 2010/11, the latest confirmed figures available, there was a 16-per-cent increase in deaths across all workplaces, with some industries, such as construction, seeing an even bigger rise (22 per cent). Provisional fatality figures for 2011/12 show a very slight improvement, however, on the previous year’s statistics, while data on major injuries are also showing a downward trend.

Nevertheless, the TUC believes the sharp rise in fatalities in 2010/11 is proof of the need for increased enforcement of health and safety law across all workplaces, and why the 2013 edition of ‘Hazards at work’ has never been more important.

The 448-page guide comprises 24 chapters on the common hazards and causes of ill health at work, and provides advice on how to assess and prevent them. Specific information is available on how to deal with bullying, stress, violence, working time, occupational cancer, and biological hazards.

The new edition also contains a new chapter on people in ‘vulnerable’ categories, such as young employees, shift workers, agency staff and disabled workers. It also contains HSE and other guidance, extensive checklists, case studies and web resources.

Commenting on the guide, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The Government seems determined to water down health and safety laws despite recent increases in workplace fatalities. It seems incredible that ministers seem unconcerned by the cut in the number of workplace inspections at a time when more people are dying and getting injured at work.

“Protection is more important now than ever and this book is one of the best tools for understanding, assessing and dealing with health and safety issues.”

The full report, ‘Hazards at work: Organising for safe and healthy workplaces’, is available at: https://www.tuc.org.uk/publications/viewPub.cfm?frmPubID=658

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