Labour Research October 2004

Health & Safety Matters

HSE neglect of occupational health is "deeply flawed"

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has ditched crucial occupational health functions - despite evidence showing that it is failing to meet its targets to reduce occupational ill health.

A new academic report by Professor Andrew Watterson of Stirling University and Hazards editor Rory O'Neill says that the Health and Safety Commission's new strategy for health and safety to 2010 and beyond "is an enormous disappointment, and looks certain to fail to deal effectively with what is a very serious public health problem".

Watterson and O'Neill add that the strategy does not recognise the importance of informed workforce participation, but instead reflects the views of "exactly those employers' groups that have failed to deliver substantial improvements in occupational health and basic safety records in the worst sectors of industry".

They also warn that moves such as axing the post of HSE medical director have broken "the link with the periodically radical and innovative work of occupational physicians dating back to Sir Thomas Legge in 1898".

The report concludes: "At a time when occupational health and safety needs to raise, not lower, its profile and increase, not reduce, its champions, specifically in the occupational health field, current decisions about occupational medicine seem deeply flawed."

"The decline and imminent fall of UK governmental occupational health: a tale of forgotten lessons and missed opportunities", International Journal of Occupational Safety and Health, volume 10, number 3, July-September 2004. Available from