Some 8 years after David Cameron and his coalition government with the Libdems started their campaign of smears against health and safety at work legislation and the rights of Union Safety Reps as outlined in the law by the Safety Reps and Safety Committees Regulations of 1977, the media still continues to report distortions and lies about health and safety at work legislation, spared on no doubt by Brexit and the Tories intentions to slash most regulations on health & safety and workers rights, many of which the US Government opposes as well as big US companies.
In America, the attitude is that business can bring to the market anything they want and that only after proof of injury to human beings can modifications and the banning of substances take place! This includes the use of chemicals in food, clothing, the air and indeed ground water.
The use of anti-biotics and chlorine in a factory farming regime in the US; means poultry and beef is contaminated with both, but passed as being safe for human consumption. This and the general lowering of food standards and animal welfare means the UK will become a dumping ground for low standards in manufacturing and food production with regards to health and safety; being imported into this country as a result of any future trade deal with the USA.
Perfect examples of this in the consumer markets are food additive Aspartame and of course tobacco based cigarettes and more recently e-cigarettes. Even when proof of harm to human beings is shown, big business and their government lobbyists can prevent remedial action taking place and laws to ban the harmful product. Aspartame is a classic example alongside tobacco cigarettes, both of which are still allowed to be sold to the public in the case of tobacco based cigarettes and still added to drinks, food and even baby food; in the case of aspartame.
This then spells out the future for health & safety in the UK following Brexit, and the end to "prevention is better than cure" approach of our legislation ever since the Health and Safety At Work Act of 1974. Indeed, such a culture will be outlawed by any trade deal with the USA after Brexit, as the worst of the TTIP deals will be incorporated into UK/US trade deal including the ability of business to sue the UK government if our current laws and any future laws can be shown by them as to having a detrimental affect upon their profits.
But the ignorance and totally false premise that is deliberately promoted that health and safety is all about compensation and nothing else, not only fills the minds of those not involved with health and safety and the prevention of illness, injuries and even deaths at work; it continues to flourish, even in the minds of many Trade Unionists and not just in the minds of the general public.
Within the CWU even, the issue of merging the Health & Safety Department with that of the Union's Legal Dept, is a perfect example of how entrenched the false premise about health & safety that the UK media peddles along with the Tory Government, has become. The view that health and safety is all about compensation after the harm is done, and not as a preventive and pro-active principle, is the only argument for merging the two departments in the eyes of many who are critical of the plan. That, and saving costs of course!
The greatest risk for any Trade Union abandoning it's health & safety structures and cutting resources and funding of dedicated health and safety departments is of course the response from the Employer.
With so many agreements relying upon Union Branch Officials and safety Reps in particular, to ensure local management compliance, the message that the recognised Trade Union is to cut it's current health and safety focus and resources will be one of glee! After-all if the Union does not make health & safety a priority then why should they?
And even if they break health & safety agreements, take short cuts in equipment, protective clothing and amend job design and procedures increasing the risk of accidents and illness to it's workforce, who will be there from the Union to respond?
The TUC challenged Cameron And Grayling's views that the UK was steeped in 'Compensation culture' and produced a report that showed not only was this premise wrong, but that there was no such thing as health and safety compensation culture, accept in the minds of injury claims companies and those who wanted total deregulation, and still do, of business and bring about in the UK, the US culture that any form of regulation whatsoever, even in terms of preventing harm to workers and the general public, stifles business and is against the almighty capitalist system!
Speaking in August 2013, TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said after the publication of the Hazards Magazine Report:
"The government is trying to brainwash people into thinking the UK has a rife compensation culture. However, the facts tell a very different story. Even those dying from work-related diseases have precious little chance of getting a payout."
The Hazards Report can be read here
Source: unionsafety / TUC / Hazards