Health and safety rules are there to protect workers – not business

At present the average employer will never see a health and safety inspector; the chances of them being prosecuted are virtually nil unless they kill or seriously injure anyone.

Our guest writer is Hugh Robertson, senior health and safety policy officer at the TUC

The Government has today announced a review of health and safety laws and the rise of the compensation culture – or at least that is what a press release from Number 10 says. In fact this review, by former trade secretary Lord Young, was actually announced by David Cameron in December last year and is due to be completed within a couple of months.

It is an interesting insight into the workings of the new Coalition Government that a review of regulation by the conservatives has suddenly been transformed into a government review and that Lord Young is to report, not to Vince Cable – whose department is responsible for regulation – but to David Cameron.

What is even more depressing, but not unexpected, is that the review will focus on the effect of legislation on business. Health and safety law is not there to protect business. It is there to protect workers from employers, who, despite the existing laws, still manage to injure a quarter of a million people every year, and make another half a million ill.

Basically this whole agenda is being driven, not by a real desire to improve regulation, but by the need to be seen to be reacting to the scare stories about “elf and safety gone mad”, that we see in the media. In the past the TUC has gone to great lengths trying to show that these myths are just that and that the reality is that our health and safety laws are woefully inadequate as shown by the ill-health and injuries figures.

The inclusion of “the compensation culture” over the past 10 years is equally ridiculous. Over the past 10 years the number of claims against employers has gone down, and of those that do get heard, the number that fail is around 1 per cent. Our worry is that this will end up as yet another attempt to prevent workers claiming compensation from their employer when they are injured or made ill.

What is necessary is not a review of the needs of business, but a review of how to make the existing laws more effective, and also to make directors of companies responsible for their companies’ actions. But the biggest need is for greater enforcement.

At present the average employer will never see a health and safety inspector, and even if they are failing to fulfil their basic legal obligations, such as risk assessment, the chances of them being prosecuted are virtually nil unless they kill or seriously injure anyone.

32 Responses to “Health and safety rules are there to protect workers – not business”

  1. Disco_Infiltrator

    RT @leftfootfwd: Health and safety rules are there to protect workers – not business: //bit.ly/aEKliH

  2. Sarah O'Meara

    RT @leftfootfwd: Health and safety rules are there to protect workers – not business: //bit.ly/aEKliH

  3. Anthony D Buckley

    RT @leftfootfwd: Health and safety rules are there to protect workers – not business: //bit.ly/aEKliH

  4. Alan Williams

    RT @leftfootfwd: Health and safety rules are there to protect workers – not business: //bit.ly/aEKliH

  5. Deborah Harrison

    RT @leftfootfwd: Health and safety rules are there to protect workers – not business: //bit.ly/aEKliH

  6. ToUChstone blog

    Hugh Robertson guests on LFF: RT @leftfootfwd: Health and safety rules are there to protect workers – not business: //bit.ly/aEKliH

  7. James Gray

    "Health and safety rules are there to protect workers – not business" //bit.ly/bGTYt7

  8. Stronger Unions

    The TUC's Hugh Robertson on LFF: RT @leftfootfwd: Health and safety rules are there to protect workers – not business: //bit.ly/aEKliH

  9. Health Care

    Health and safety rules are there to protect workers – not …: At present the average employer will never see a h… //bit.ly/d55RE7

  10. Duncan

    Not necessarily. The argument is quite straightforward; there is a cost of health and safety legislation. There is both a cost to the government through growth lost due to the cost to businesses and a more immediate cost due to the costs of regulating and monitoring various health and safety standards. This money comes from somewhere; you might equate it with the money spent on the health service. If the cost of saving someones life on an operating table is quantifiable then the cost of any health and safety legislation can be equateable to that. Suppose we were to insist that, given the danger that one might trip and fall, everyone should wear a hard hat at all times to protect from injury with the threat of a fine if this is ignored. To monitor and enforce this would be prohibitively expensive, and the cost to businesses considerable, but (I’m willing to bet) it wouldn’t have a major effect on the number of head injuries which happen. The effect it would have would not match the cost.

    It’s not crazy to review legislation; it’s necessary. There could be some existing legislation which could either be streamlined or else does not offer safety benefits to meet the cost of it. Then again, there might not be.

  11. Trakgalvis

    Health and safety rules are there to protect workers – not business: //bit.ly/aEKliH via @leftfootfwd

  12. Matt

    @ Duncan, I think what the TUC are concerned about is not the fact that legislation is being reviewd per se but that the terms of reference are focussed on ‘the cost to business’ and ‘the growth in compensation culture’. If the review is to the cost to business, with less focus on the benefit to workers, then the cost benefit analysis approach you advocate is seriously flawed. And as Hugh Robertson pointed out there is no growth in compensatoin culture. This is coming across as an ideologically motivated attack on some fundamental workers’ rights. I may be proven wrong at the report’s conclusion, I hope so.

  13. Richard Jones

    Common sense on H&S from Left Foot Forward-> //bit.ly/ainBLS /cc @feedly

  14. Mr. Sensible

    I fully agree; this is all just populist nonsense.

  15. Janice Wolff

    Health and safety rules are there to protect workers – not …: At present the average employer will never see a h… //bit.ly/bF5Cqd

  16. NormalBloke

    Wot a lot of rot my dear left wing nutters. Are you happy to see the ending of science experiments in schools or the end of conkers or a situation where public servants stand by why someone drowns because they haven’t the authority to act. Of course it goes too far. There is nothing wrong with a review. Your dogmantic, ideological nonsense is why you’re unelectable. Oh hypocits whilst we’re on “we’re a caring bunch crusade” can I ask you why Ballsup is going round saying vote for me cos I can duff up the tories? Remember your spin machine lieing and cheating? You lot dont care about anyone but power and yourselves

  17. What Does the Phrase ?holistic Pet Food? Really Mean? | Holistic Pets Health

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  18. Ron Crowe

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  19. Vote4SafePregnancy

    I support this article. Loot at China’s mine workers. Every Month a lot of worker die in mine. Law is silent there. We should make law for good working condition for protect workers health. Workers are also human, they have human rights too. We should think about it.

  20. Morgan La Femina

    Health and safety rules are there to protect workers – not … //bit.ly/d2JnX7

  21. Web links for 14th June 2010 | ToUChstone blog: A public policy blog from the TUC

    […] Health and safety rules are there to protect workers – not business The TUC's Hugh Robertson has written this piece on Left Foot Forward, about the potential motives behind the Young Review of safety legislation announced today: "It is an interesting insight into the workings of the new Coalition Government that a review of regulation by the Conservatives has suddenly been transformed into a government review and that Lord Young is to report, not to Vince Cable – whose department is responsible for regulation – but to David Cameron." Related posts (automatically generated):Sunday Times becomes ever more like the Daily Mail […]

  22. Mr. Sensible

    ‘Normal Bloke’, all that stuff about Conkers ETC is just the kind of media nonsense this article is talking about.

    The Daily Mail seems to specialize in those kind of stories.

  23. Benjamin Chee

    Health and safety rules are there to protect workers – not … //bit.ly/c95T3b

  24. Anthony Garrick

    Health and safety rules are there to protect workers – not …: At present the average employer will never see a h… //bit.ly/dvHpMM

  25. Dr. Nancy Philips

    Health and safety rules are there to protect workers – not …: At present the average employer will never see a h… //bit.ly/aDVkBU

  26. KENNY FONG

    Health and safety rules are there to protect workers – not …: At present the average employer will never see a h… //bit.ly/d55RE7

  27. Robert

    But the conkers is the problem health and safety went out into society, this week a cracking one, if you put up English flags your at risk of injury, but so are the people that look at you.

    What rubbish, life is a risk it always has been, so take health and safety back into the work place.

  28. jdavidmorgan

    RT @alan_r_williams: RT @leftfootfwd: Health and safety rules are there to protect workers – not business: //bit.ly/aEKliH

  29. NormalBloke

    Mr Sensible – the sad fact is that some schools have banned it – that’s an example of why a review is needed. By the way stop blaming the Mail, its not a paper I particularly care for but the cause of demise of Labour resides in the hands of Balls, Mandy, Draper, G Brown and N Brown. How come GB is picking up a salary – where is he, why has he gone to ground – any truth in the rumours of his mental health issues?

  30. Mr. Sensible

    ‘Normal Bloke’ I haven’t seen those stories about Gordon Brown. If there was anything in those stories I would expect them to have had wider coverage.

    But, seriously, the right wing press seem to specialize in those kind of stories and I think it can all best be described as a bit ridiculous.

    1 example is all that rubbish in the Telegraph about gritting your driveway, which was confirmed as wrong by a Government Minister.

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