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July 28, 2014

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TUC hails HSWA legacy but calls for action on occupational diseases

Government plans to replace the Health and Safety at Work Act’s “universal coverage with complex new rules” for self-employed workers “will create huge challenges for employers, workers and regulators”, warns the TUC.

In a thinly veiled critique of the current government’s position, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Few pieces of legislation can be seen to have been as effective as this act. We should be celebrating its 40th birthday and thanking those who drafted it.

“Unfortunately, the present government is hell-bent on chipping away at the act by removing large numbers of self-employed from its coverage.”

To mark the 40th anniversary of the ground-breaking legislation, which received royal assent on 31 July 1974, the TUC paid tribute and hailed the act as “one of the most important and successful pieces of workplace legislation ever”.

Over the past four decades, ever since the act was passed, the number of fatalities in the workplace has fallen by 85 per cent while the number of injuries at work has fallen by 77 per cent.

But despite the huge progress made, Ms O’Grady warned that much more needed to be done. 

“While the act has been successful in bringing down deaths and injuries in the workplace, it has been less effective at preventing occupational diseases such as cancers, asthmas, dermatitis, back pain and lung diseases,” she said.

“This is still a massive problem and I hope that the act will be used much more vigorously to address this challenge in the years to come.”

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