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April 4, 2011

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MPs to scrutinise health and safety in Scotland

A committee of MPs has launched an inquiry into health and safety in Scotland.

Announcing the terms of the inquiry today (4 April), the Scottish Affairs Select Committee is particularly keen to receive views on HSE resources.

The MPs are looking to explore: how the HSE knows how effective its interventions are; whether it has correctly identified the areas of concern and sufficiently targeted its resources in Scotland; and what effect any reduction in the HSE workforce might have on the Executive as a whole and its work in Scotland.

Unlike in England and Wales, in Scotland the HSE does not bring health and safety prosecutions. That role is filled by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), which is the sole prosecuting authority.

A memo report by the National Audit Office (NAO), prepared in anticipation of the inquiry, found that the HSE does not have an accurate record of the outcomes for each of the cases it referred to the COPFS. Consequently, it cannot determine the conviction rate in Scotland.

The HSE recommended 43 cases for prosecution in Scotland in 2009-10, compared with 75 in 2007-08, and 84 in 2008-09. There was also a reduction in the proportion of major-injury cases investigated in Scotland, from 11 per cent of cases in 2007-08 to 6 per cent of cases in 2009-10. According to the NAO, the HSE holds no information on what impact these reductions have had on the rate of compliance with the HSWA 1974.

The committee is therefore expected to examine the effectiveness of the relationships between the COPFS, the HSE, the Scottish Government, local authorities, and other relevant bodies.

The MPs will also look at comparing the effectiveness of the HSE in Scotland with its work in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; and make international comparisons with similar-sized countries, or similar risk industries to those in Scotland.

As highlighted in the NAO report, the reported accident rates for workplace fatalities and major injuries remain higher in Scotland than in England and Wales. In 2009-10, there were 0.9 fatalities in Scotland per 100,000 employees compared with 0.4 per 100,000 for England and Wales.

Other aspects of the inquiry will explore: the effectiveness of health and safety regulation in Scotland; the impact of regulation on business; and the roles and division of responsibilities between the different bodies responsible for health and safety in Scotland.

The Committee is seeking written evidence from interested parties on any, or all, aspects of the inquiry by 16 June.

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13 years ago

As a H & S Professional, now retired, I would make the following observation and hope it gets through. I worked for a company who were so obsessed with reducing accident and incident figures, they introduced disciplinary measures directed towards anyone having an accident. There were certain criteria, but that was the nub of it all. When the Board decided to cut costs, guess who as the only fully qualified and CMIOSH member of a small team of two/three was first in the queue to be chopped.