CWU Critical Of Grayling Over Planned Decimation Of Safety Legislation
CWU national health, safety and environment officer Dave Joyce has sharply criticised the Government for its announcement of major abolition of health and safety regulations. This despite there being no evidence in the health & safety review to justify this action.
Following the publication of a Government-commissioned Review by risk management academic Professor Ragnar Löfstedt from King's College of London, Employment Minister Chris Grayling set out plans for an attack on what it calls "health and safety red tape."
As previously reported by Unionsafety, January will see a consultation opening on the abolition of large numbers of health and safety regulations, with the intention of removing up to 50% of health & safety legislation, with many being removed "within a few months."
Dave told Unionsafety:
I attended the Löfstedt report and government response launch and I put some pointed questions to Grayling who waffled on and didn't answer the questions. I Said that there were two key statements made in the opening which we should take away from today they were:
Professor Löfstedt report statement in the review document - "the findings conclude that there is no case for radical change to the UK H&S System" and Grayling "Good H&S will always be important to workforces and businesses and should never change and this country has a proud record on H&S which should be cherished and we, employers and Unions should take credit for it"
Dave also stated that he welcomed the recommendation that the HSE would review Local Authority Inspection and Enforcement activity in order to achieve consistency as in the Communications Industry we have mixed enforcement and suffer the inconsistencies of dealing with 420 LAs which at times presents difficulties and inconsistencies which was tackled through the successful HSE ' LOP' scheme which was wound up so he welcomes this so long as it means a more robust enforcement and Inspection regime.
Dave was then able to make a number of points in criticism of the government's intentions:
"Whilst from 1 January you're going to create a new 'challenge panel' which will allow businesses to get health and safety advice and decisions of health and safety inspectors overturned immediately if they have got it wrong, where do the workers go for help and advice on health and safety and to get decisions of health and safety inspectors or lack of action overturned immediately if they have got it wrong?
Bearing in mind it has been recently made more difficult for Workers to contact the HSE - with the removal of 'HSE Helpline' and the removal of 'HSE Regional Offices Telephone Numbers' from the HSE Website and the 'cessation of Telephone Reporting of Accidents and Dangerous Occurrences'?
Neither Minister Chris Grayling or HSE Chief Executive Geoffrey Podger or HSE Chair Judith Hackitt answered the question.
There's been a lot of talk today about 'rebalancing' health and safety in favour of businesses and the Professor's report recommends targeting high risk workplaces and industries but who decides what is a high risk and low risk.?
Our industry, the communications industry and its main employers Royal Mail and BT have been designated 'Low Risk' - businesses that the majority of CWU members work for without consulting the Workforce, Safety Representatives and Trade Unions in spite of fatalities, high accident numbers etc - How will that be redressed and rebalanced?"
Minister Chris Grayling in reply said that 'he believes it's extremely important to get health and safety right. We need to protect people against real dangers in the workplace. The need to find the right balance, and that is what we seek to do. I see it as a welcome a change in policy that focuses health and safety inspections not on low-risk, good employer sites, which have taken up so much resource in the past, but on employers who are not playing by the book and who endanger their employees and the public. That is where I want our regulatory effort to focus.'
In conclusion Dave told Unionsafety:
"The myths about H&S pedled by Cameron, Young, Grayling and others have been exposed for what they are so a more subtle approach is now being adopted.
This won't end here and whether the coalition lose the appetite for H&S regulation attacks remains to be seen. They may just continue to under enforce it. The sad thing is that the Lofstedt report like the Young report contains not a single proposal that will reduce the unacceptably high levels of workplace deaths, injuries and work related ill health"
Grayling keeps on about the UK having the best H&S record in the EU and the worst record for 'Red Tape' . I've no doubt the attack on H&S and lack of action to improve it will persist.
As for our good H&S Record - Once again the report speaks for itself - 4.4 million days lost due to workplace injuries and 22.1 million days lost due to work-related ill health in 2010-11 plus 7,466 Dangerous Occurances..! And we still get disasters occurring such as Buncefield and Stockline/ICL Glasgow.
There's going to be some watering down of some regs and they want to put SFAIRP in the strict liability regs in connection with a lot said on the compensation culture (STARK V THE POST OFFICE WAS MENTIONED by Lofstedt re PUWER).
All in all not a helpful report or positive - but not as damaging as feared - the worry may be the interpretation slant put on it by this terrible government."