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January 14, 2013

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Most fatalities occur in uninspected sectors, researcher claims

The majority of workplace deaths occur in industry sectors officially categorised as exempt from unannounced health and safety inspections, according to research by a university academic.

Professor Rory O’Neill, a researcher at the University of Stirling, made several Freedom of Information requests and analysed more than 20 HSE reports to map fatality statistics against a list of sectors excluded from proactive inspections.

The findings show there are now at least 37 ‘sectors without inspectors’, including agriculture, quarries, plastics, electricity generation and supply, and other industries acknowledged by the HSE to be ‘higher risk’.

“Britain’s biggest employer – the health service (NHS) – is also out of bounds,” highlighted Professor O’Neill. “But the country’s 1.4 million health workers can be confronted by many of the safety risks encountered in heavy industry, as well as all manner of potentially terminal health risks – from blood-borne diseases to carcinogenic, cytotoxic and other drugs.”

He argued that the policy – which was first laid out nearly two years ago, in the Government’s strategy, Good health and safety, good for everyone – is driven not by evidence but by an ideology of deregulation. “Despite several months of questions to HSE, they failed to provide any health and safety case for exempting sometimes deadly industries from official policing,” Prof O’Neill claimed. “HSE was told by the Government to get off employers’ backs and the watchdog tamely obliged.”

The regulator has published sector-specific strategies on its website, which aim to provide the rationale for its planned approach to, and mix of, intervention – but it would seem these do not go into enough depth, or answer the specific questions to satisfy Prof O’Neill.

His research showed that between 1 April 2011 and 31 October 2012, there were 258 fatalities in HSE-enforced workplaces – with 137 (53 per cent) occurring in sectors exempt from proactive inspections. In sectors still subject to unannounced inspections, there were 104 deaths (40 per cent). The remaining deaths occurred in sectors where the enforcement approach is unclear, added Prof O’Neill.

In Scotland, the statistics are more acute. Over the same 19-month period, 20 worker fatalities out of a total of 33 (60 per cent) occurred in uninspected sectors.

The research also found that reactive inspections following reported injuries have also dropped by 40 per cent in five years. In 2006/07, there were 33,300 reported fatal or major injuries in HSE-enforced workplaces, with 2841 of these (8.5 per cent), investigated. By 2010/11, the number of reported fatal or major injuries had risen to 36,062, but just 1844 (5.1 per cent) were investigated.

Concluded Prof O’Neill: “There’s an unanswerable business, health and moral case for comprehensive inspection programmes. The current Government strategy is making life easier for irresponsible businesses but risks making it just a bit shorter for the rest of us.”

In response to the report, a spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “It’s right to target health and safety inspections where they will have most impact and risks are high, but that doesn’t mean other sectors of the economy are ignored. Every business continues to have a legal responsibility to protect its workers and anyone affected by its activities.€

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Adv
Adv
8 years ago

In reply to Martin: SHP would like to make clear we have not been inaccurate with our headline as we have reported directly on what the researcher said. In addition, SHP contacted both the DWP and the HSE for their side of the story.

Aeu07Ts
Aeu07Ts
8 years ago

But what percentage of workplaces fall into the uninspected category? If there were 100 fatalities, 75 of which were in uninspected workplaces than the statistic only really gains validity if the number of uninspected workplaces is less than 75% of the workplaces assessed right?

Andrew
Andrew
8 years ago

Agreed, Tom. Without an idea of scale, the numbers border on meaningless. Fatalities per 100,000 workers would well produce different results. And while 1.4 million people may have ‘NHS’ as their paymaster, a significant proportion of them are a long way removed from the clinical risks the Professor lists.
Nor does he clarify if some of the non-HSE sectors are regulated by other bodies, e.g. ORR.
Or maybe he does do both of the above but the article has been editorially spun?

Bob
Bob
8 years ago

Is it any wonder that the HSE declined to offer any stats?

They may be funded by us the tax payer, but they are Civil Servants through and through and are controlled by the Government.

Even if they do have such statistical evidence, I doubt it would have been sanctioned by Ministers do you?

They will withhold it to rebuff the imposed cuts, should the government change no doubt?

Bob
Bob
8 years ago

B J Mann, sounds fishy, bit like B A Mann or Wayne Kerr, Richard Head etc. as anounced on a public address system at Waterloo Station.

I played that prank myself, what fun.

Are we being infiltrated I wonder?

Sincere apologies if those are your unfortunate initials. I would suggest you drop the J

Bobmanojlovic
Bobmanojlovic
8 years ago

In response to the SHP, why didn’t the article begin:

Researcher CLAIMS “Most fatalities occur in uninspected sectors”.

According to research by a VISITING university NON academic the majority of workplace deaths occur in industry sectors officially categorised as exempt from unannounced health and safety inspections.

HONORARY Professor Rory O’Neill, VISITING researcher at the University of Stirling, has been a LABOUR-side expert at agencies including the International LABOUR Organisation..

Ianmiles2000
Ianmiles2000
8 years ago

“…the Government’s strategy, Good health and safety, good for everyone – is driven not by evidence but by an ideology of deregulation”

Well argued Professor.

Are you listening Mr Cameron? Of course not, you hold H&S in utter contempt.
Are you listening Mr Grayling? Of course not, you’ve already moved on.

Info
Info
8 years ago

Tim – please explain why you classify Stirling as a tin pot university.

BJ Mann – do you understand what an academic is? The title Professor provides one clue.

Les
Les
8 years ago

The professor states “Quarries” are not inspected. This does not appear to be true. HSE inspections have occured in three known instances on adjacent quarry/landfill sites where my company has been working in the last ten-twelve years (notably with no significant problems being raised). Unless, of course, this is a fairly recent change or the data set taken is small.

Mail
Mail
8 years ago

Odd comments on statistics &political bias show failure to read report. Key point: HSE banned proactive inspections in what it classifies as ‘low hazard/risk’ sectors, cover the majority of workplaces, employing majority of workers. SE’s own figures show over 50% of the workplace deaths occur in these sectors, so how can they be low risk? HSE can’t justify inspection cut on a scientific assessment of the H&S risks, but on an ideological removing the supposed burden on business.

Mail
Mail
8 years ago

Prof O’Neill’s report refers to the Grayling ‘Good H&S: Good for Everyone’ statement in Marcg 2011 which banned 33% of all proactive inspections, on the false ‘burden on business’ ideology, NOT on H&S risk assessment. The HSE and L:A’s translated this business demand by cutting proactive inspections in the range of sectors O”Neill mentions, and calling them ‘low risk’. Only refers to inspections since March 2011.

Mail
Mail
8 years ago

Not at all sure this post makes any sense! What American research? Is Stirling University ‘tin pot’? And what on earth does that mean? I thouyght I was on SHP site, not blundered into Daily Mail fact-free slaggathon!

Mail
Mail
8 years ago

Only construction, molten metal, waste and recycling and a few other sectors allowed proactive inspections – cooling towers added after Legionnaire outbreaks in 2012 & inspection pre Olympics found 75% cooling towers in London had Legionella- so vast majority of all workplaces in UK in NO proactive inspections group. Some aspects of Dock work now inspected as publicity exposed death rate up to 20times average: http://www.hazards.org/deadlybusiness/docks.htm

Mail
Mail
8 years ago

The University of Stirling is ranked in the top 50 in the world in The Times Higher Education 100 Under 50 table, which ranks the world’s best 100 universities under 50 years old.
Is that what you mean by tin pot??

Martin
Martin
8 years ago

This is a very poor peice of headlien grabbing journalism by SHP in simply restating an inaccurate assertion. These sectors are not ‘uninspected as the headline claims, they are not subject to ‘unannounced’ or ‘surprise’ inspections. Thats very different to being ‘uninspected’
Crucially what was the percentage of fatalities when they were subject to unannounced inspections? Correlation does not prove causation. As reported this story is misleading; perhaps the full report is more balanced.

Meaow
Meaow
8 years ago

Accidents will inevitably occur everywhere, what it needs to show is based on flesh and blood numbers whether incident rates are increasing or falling as a result of reduced inspections in those workplaces, this is not evidence. There is no evidence that I have ever researched showing that legislation has ever reduced accidents in the workplace, when you look at declining rates from 1900 A.D to-present day, in any western world.

Mschilling
Mschilling
8 years ago

A sensationalised headline to a piece looking at a rather meaningless report.
Why not use the headline ‘HSE uses targetted, proactive inspection program’ instead?
Because its not dramatic enough or politically motivated….?
Oh, and may one ask; who funded this research project and what did it cost?
Some of us don’t automatically believe everything we are expected to. Too many articles here appear politically motivated, for me I would prefer a more balanced perspective…..

Nigel
Nigel
8 years ago

Tim here’s an impeccable American reference: The Twelve Attributes of a Truly Great Place to Work: Harvard Business Review: 19th September 2011 which identifies: ‘More than 100 studies have now found that the most engaged employees ….. are significantly more productive, drive higher customer satisfaction and outperform those who are less engaged.’ How about putting worker involvement at the heart of HSE’s enforcement strategy?

Nigel
Nigel
8 years ago

Perhaps criticism of Govt H&S policy has occurred over the last 18 months because it is based on anecdotal stories in the Daily Mail etc as referenced in Lord Young’s report Common Sense Common Safety [p49]. Here’s an idea. Put worker’s health first in taking some positive action about reducing the HSE estimated 12,000 deaths each year through work related ill-health. Now this is an issue which all parties have failed to effectively address since, since … well ever.

Peter
Peter
8 years ago

“The Government is clear that lower-risk businesses that are managing their risks effectively should not be subject to unannounced, proactive inspections.”

….and how does the Government know (a) that it’s a lower-risk business and (b) that it is managing its risks?

Official current estimate costs of accidents and ill health £13bn+ per annum. But those responsible for probably the majority of this now in “sectors without inspectors”

Rajkpatel
Rajkpatel
8 years ago

The figures do not consider the total number of workers in each category. The number of deaths needs to be shown against the number of workers in that category to better understand the actual incident rate.
Also, there needs to be clear data to show that pro-active inspections have reduced the number of deaths in that category while other categories have remained the same or worsened.
Resources always need to be targeted where they have the greatest effect.

Rory
Rory
8 years ago

If you ignore the amusing – if borderline libellous – personal attacks, this is a very useful discussion, for which I thank the contributors. Just to clear up some of the more egregious errors below… I just presented the evidence, a straightforward number-crunching exercise. I asked HSE to provide its evidence underpinning the proactive inspection exemptions, and it couldn’t or wouldn’t furnish any. I published the responses from HSE, so you could draw your own conclusions. http://www.hazards.org

Shpeditor
Shpeditor
8 years ago

In reply (again) to those accusing SHP of bias and a sensationalist headline: this research was not compiled by SHP. SHP is merely reporting on someone else’s findings. The headline to the story is completely factual – the person who did the research claims that most fatalities occur in uninspected workplaces. The researcher claims – not SHP. We asked the HSE and DWP to comment in order to balance the story. We do this with all our stories. To reiterate: SHP does not make the news, it reports it

Stevepg56
Stevepg56
8 years ago

is Mr `ONeil a spokeman for the labour party with his selective research? Not wishing to call into question his professional status but there is reseach and there is rersearch

Stevepg56
Stevepg56
8 years ago

i have noticed over the past 18 months a definite political bias by SHP against the conservative party , I have on some ocassions e mailed both IOSH and SHP about the blatant anti government views spouted my the editor of SHP, in her editorial in the magazine. Criticism can be levelled at political parties but political bias is totally uncalled for. This story being one of them

Tommy
Tommy
8 years ago

Well its poor research, the reports SHP publish are disproportionately unbalanced arguments. How about the recent academical research by American authors, rather than tin pot universities, that show health and safety legislation has had no impact on workplace deaths and injuries. Go on I dare you.