Labour Research March 2012

Health & Safety Matters

Less inspections will mean more deaths

Less inspections and less enforcement activity will simply mean more deaths, injuries and illness, the TUC says in a safety briefing.

The coalition government’s approach is to see inspections as being a negative thing. This is not the view of the TUC, nor necessarily of employers.

Good employers have always supported both regulation and enforcement because it means that their competitors cannot take short-cuts with people’s safety and undercut them. It is only unscrupulous or incompetent employers who fear consistent and fair regulation of health and safety, the TUC argues.

There is also a clear link between inspection and enforcement activity and preventing injury and ill health as researchers at Imperial College, London have estabished.

They have developed a mathematical model to determine the effects of the levels set down in the regulations, and their enforcement, on lung cancer numbers. In the case of silica, halving the maximum exposure rate would reduce the number of cancers by 202. However, reducing exposure and enforcement increasing so that 90% of workplaces complied, would mean the number of cancers prevented would be more than tripled.

The TUC says that if bad employers know that there is very little chance of them being inspected, they will be far less likely to comply with the regulations on health and safety.

The TUC is producing regular safety briefings in the run up to the Defend Health and Safety Day of Action on 28 April, which is also Workers’ Memorial Day.