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November 8, 2012

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Lack of inspections is encouraging safety standards to slide

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:

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Add this ‘relaxation’ of inspections with the ‘relaxation’ of employment rights and there you have it!
A Victorian Britain where employees won’t have the right to claim compensation for injuries so bad they will never work again & get called scroungers for it!
Rest assured though, the 16yr old that downloads some music off the net will be fined £25000 & spend 6 mths in prison.
Yes, I know all employers aren’t like that, I know many exemplary ones, but is this the thin end of the wedge?


pinch of salt time once again. If im not mistaken the unions are well known for their tory bashing antics. Most normal people can see through their antics and political shennanignas


Reduced inspections can and do encourage relaxed safety standards. 29 miners died in New Zealand in part due to a reduction in inspection regime. Read the New Zealand Royal Commission report on the Pike River Mine deaths.


How can a reduction in inspections from the HSE ‘encourage’ relaxed safety standards?
Yet another dramatic headline which adds nothing to the content other than a bit of sensationalism.
The possible reduction in safety activity is due to a perception that there is a possibility among employers that they could get away with it as a consequence of reduced enforcement visits – it’s all rather tenuous.
Just another non-article telling us what somebody thinks may be true.


In my experience they only start their H&S careers when they join the HSE!


someone correct me if I am wrong but unionised premises with Safety Reps they are allowed to conduct their own safety inspections/tours so do not need to worry so much for the HSE inspectors.
It is perhaps more important that inspections are caried out where there is not that right nor competent H&S staff in the workforce.


45% of the 1875 commenting, admitted having NEVER seen an Inspector, not just of recent times? Thereby demonstrating that the previous chances of being caught for H&S failings were rare.

Its a poor reflection on the impact of the TUC if the HSE reduction in inspections, seriously promotes non compliance?

Unions promote a safer work place, if they are waiting for the HSE to bolster their impact they are missing their point of existance? Too little too late comes to mind.


As you say, I must confirm, that I only met 1 ex union appointed Safety Rep. And she was German, so not a suprise really.

The issue of falling inspection numbers has yet to be proven as a contributing factor, and most of the SME`s (where the documented incident rate is highest) were rarely if ever inspected by the HSE. And fewer still have any safety rep either.

I came accross many who were unaware of HSE existance or thier role as a regulator.

We need to judge it over time for effect?


More inspections = more inpsectors = equal more recruiting of inspectors = increased career opportunities for inspectors.
It’s interesting how many HSE inspectors start their H&S careers as union safety reps.
Also note that the Union safety reps cite stress & bullying as main concerns – issues prominent in large offices. They don’t seem intersted in WAH, chemicals, machinery or lifting ops – issues prominent in the non-unionised private sector.


“It’s interesting how many HSE inspectors start their H&S careers as union safety reps.”

In my experience, virtually none.


I was a H&S rep & the HSE wasn’t all that interested in the machinery, noise & chemical issues that i’d rased. Even AFTER an accident!!! Perhaps that individual didn’t start off as a TU rep eh!
Bad, greedy companies who deliberately break the law & cut corners will thrive with no inspections and little chance of getting caught – more people will get hurt or worse because of it!
Don’t mistake my use of ‘greed’ for making a big profit though! Many multi £m companies have excellent H&S cultures.


left wing political bias