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The TUC believes that a growing number of employers has lost the fear of being caught for health and safety failings, as a result of the Government’s scaling-back of regulatory inspections.
The findings of its tenth biennial survey of union safety reps, published today (8 November), show that 45 per cent of the 1875 respondents reported their workplace never having received a visit from a health and safety inspector. A further 10 per cent of safety reps hadn’t seen a safety inspector in their workplace for more than three years.
Twenty-eight per cent of respondents confirmed their workplace had received a visit from a safety inspector in the past year. This figure rose to 41 per cent for those working in the construction sector – a priority industry for the HSE.
According to the TUC, there is also concerning evidence that an increasing number of employers are becoming less inclined to make safety improvements because they know the chance of them receiving an inspection is low. Two years ago, 61 per cent of safety reps said their employer had made some attempt at safety improvements because of the possibility of an inspection; in the 2012 survey, this proportion had declined to 53 per cent.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber commented: “Government spending cuts are having a big effect on the likelihood of workplaces receiving visits from HSE or council safety inspectors. A growing number of employers now seem content to let safety standards slip, so confident are they that an inspector is unlikely to call and hold their workplace safety policies to account.”
Among safety reps’ chief safety concerns, stress, bullying and harassment are top of the list. The TUC believes that many incidents that fall within these categories are a result of increasing job insecurity and unease, as spending cuts and austerity economics take their toll.
Barber explained: “Fears about how austerity is affecting peoples’ jobs and their families are having a real impact on the health and well-being of UK workers.
“As jobs are cut, so the workload of those left behind increases. As the workloads rise, so do the stress levels of over-worked employees, which lead to a greater risk of bullying and harassment as stressed-out supervisors take out their frustrations on staff.”
The TUC biennial survey of safety reps can be found at: www.tuc.org.uk/focus_on_health_and_safety