Workplace Report April 2021

Health & safety - HSE Monitor

HSE chief exec appears before select committee

HSE chief executive Sarah Albon appeared before the cross-party work and pensions select committee to answer questions about the organisation’s approach to workplace safety during the pandemic. Prospect specialists’ union general secretary Mike Clancy and TUC deputy general secretary Paul Nowak also provided oral evidence to the committee.

Clancy highlighted the 54% real terms cut the HSE has suffered since 2010 and said this had reduced its ability to respond to the virus. He said an extra £14m provided to the HSE to carry out “spot checks” was mainly spent on external contractors, such as debt collection agencies, who have been conducting the checks despite not being trained health and safety professionals. And he argued the HSE had “got it wrong” in classifying Covid as a “significant” rather than a “serious” risk to health in the workplace, affecting enforcement action.

Albon conceded that the HSE had been unable to spend the additional resources on more trained staff. However, she defended the decision on the classification of Covid on the basis that businesses were largely complying with the regulations and that Covid did not present a serious risk to the average working age person.