Click for a larger version

Hazards special report


HSC Vision 2010: An enforcement-lite safety disaster

Getting away with murder

What we told Jane Kennedy, Minister of Work and Pensions

To: Jane Kennedy MP Minister for Work

11 May 2004

Dear Minister,

I was alarmed to hear your speech today (HSE news release: MINISTER OUTLINES COMMITMENT TO HEALTH AND SAFETY).

Many workers' health organisations and trades unions are deeply dismayed by the government's retreat from a proven regulatory approach and its failure to fund adequately the Health and Safety Executive.

These concerns have been echoed by eminent occupational health specialists in journals including the Lancet and the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health.

The new HSC 2010 strategy is not "brave", it is ill-considered and dangerous. Instead of supporting real, effective measures to allow greater worker involvement in health and safety - provisional improvement notices, a nationwide and comprehensive system of "roving" union safety reps and a duty on employers to respond in good faith to approaches from union safety reps - the government is providing less enforcement, fewer resources and lip service to worker consultation.

As long as the government fails to promote real, legally-backed and fully resourced measures to support worker involvement, any claim of support for "genuine partnership" is a genuine nonsense.

For a summary of the grave shortcomings of the the new HSC strategy, please see: commissionimpossible

For considered arguments on the UK's sickness absence situation, see:

I hope you will reconsider your position and your government will provide adequate funds and support for health and safety enforcement and a safety regime that puts workers' health and not "risk management" to the fore.

Yours sincerely, Rory O'Neill

Editor, Hazards magazine
Health, safety and environment officer, International Federation of Journalists


Risk management is the key to reducing the number of deaths and injuries in the workplace but this can only happen if everybody works together and adopts a brave, new approach to health and safety, said Minister for Work Jane Kennedy today.

In her first Health and Safety speech, Ms Kennedy told the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accident's occupational health and safety conference that although Britain had a health and safety record of which it could be proud, the workplace and its hazards were changing.

"The rate of fatal injuries has fallen by over two thirds in the last thirty years, but we are now seeing a plateau in performance.

"There is also a greater exposure to risks such as stress and musculoskeletal disorders. We have to respond to this change and look towards more innovative ways of working to tackle these new issues if we are to make further inroads into health and safety improvements,"
she said.

The new strategy for Health and Safety in Great Britain which was launched in February was developed with these matters in mind and a key factor was genuine partnership working, Ms Kennedy added.

"The public sector also has to lead the way - it is not enough for Government just to exhort others it must lead by example and set standards. The public sector employs five million people and must play a full part. For example, sickness absence is generally higher than the private sector. I think that is a cause for concern.

"The Health and Safety Commission and I are determined that this should change and therefore the public sector has been made an area for priority action.

"Effective management of health and safety can help deliver improved productivity and efficiency. This is a golden opportunity for the public sector to lead the way and show others how to unlock the increases in productivity, as well as helping the Government to
achieve its goals," Miss Kennedy said.

She concluded by saying that the Government's goal was not a risk free society but one where risk was properly managed and understood.

"Risk management is the key that unlocks progress while bearing down on resultant suffering and loss of life. We must champion the case for sensible controls, sensibly applied."

The conference in Birmingham was attended by key figures from across the industry. Other speakers included Bill Callaghan from the HSC and Tim Humphreys of the Association of British Insurers.

Notes to editors:

1. The new workplace health and safety strategy, which was launched in February is available on the DWP website.

Public enquiries 020 7712 2171

What we told Bill Callaghan

To: Bill Callaghan Chair, Health and Safety Commission
Workers' Memorial Day, 28 April 2004

Dear Bill Callaghan


You can only go so far attempting to fit the evidence to the strategy.

Your news release today, Workers' Memorial Day, is another sorry HSC attempt to justify the woeful 2010 strategy.

As Justin McCracken's September 2003 paper admitted, HSC does not have the evidence to justify its retreat from regulation and enforcement. It should stop pretending it has. Your release shows overwhelming support for health and safety laws and the traditional HSE role, not for the creation of your new look, toothless, pointless, cut-price HSE, a virtual CAB for safety.

Time, effort and public money would have been better spent defending rather than dismantling the HSE inspection and enforcement functions. Something more than lipservice to the union role in protecting workplace safety standards would have been useful, too.

Your "not a plan" strategy is a poorly argued disgrace and is neither "sensible" nor "civilised" - and low grade spin isn't going to hide this.

Yours sincerely Rory O'Neill
Editor, Hazards magazine

HSE Press Release: E060:04 - 28 April 2004

Survey reveals public vote of confidence in health and safety

Three out of four employers say health and safety requirements benefit their companies as
a whole, according to a new MORI survey published today by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The survey also found that employers rate health and safety in their top two most important workplace issues and over 80 per cent regard HSE favourably.

Justin McCracken, HSE Deputy Director General (Operations), welcomed the findings: “This survey confirms a high level of support for health and safety - from those who face the risks and those who create them. It shows overwhelming support for our vision of health and safety as a cornerstone of a civilised society. It is also a strong vote of public confidence - from employers, employees and citizens - in HSE and the work we do alongside Local Authorities to promote sensible health and safety and to save lives.

“We are funded by the taxpayer and must reflect public expectations. The survey shows that views are divided on whether HSE enforcing the law or promoting good practice is most likely to improve health and safety. It confirms that the approach we have set out in our new strategy - to enforce the law and promote good practice and more advice - is in line with what people think will help most. It also confirms that employers and employees share our view that the people best placed to make workplaces safer are the staff and managers who work in them.”

The survey, of 3,000 members of the working and non-working public and 500 employers, looked at people’s understanding of the term ‘health and safety’, what they see as the main risks at work, who they think is responsible for health and safety and awareness and favourability of HSE compared to similar organisations.

Most employers see health and safety as good for business and disagree that it puts a strain on profits. Over 60 per cent believe health and safety requirements save them money in the long term, while only 14 per cent think health and safety law seriously hampers their business. Nearly 60 per cent say that following health and safety law defends them against unjustified compensation claims.

Citizens and employees are most concerned about road safety. Health and safety in the workplace comes next for employees while citizens are more concerned about food and medicine safety. Employers rate health and safety among their top two issues of importance in the workplace. Employees are more concerned about job satisfaction, pay and work-life balance.

Male employees are more concerned with workplace risks than their female colleagues – 74 per cent against 66 per cent – but this is likely to reflect the industries in which men and women predominate. For example, construction workers show more concern for health and safety at work than banking employees.

Two thirds of employees believe their employers take health and safety issues very seriously and the larger the organisation the more likely they are to say so. Most employees feel they have the right amount of health and safety information and training, although two in five employers have had no or not much training.

Awareness of HSE is high compared with similar organisations and HSE is well regarded in comparison to them. 85 per cent of employers who have had contact with HSE staff rate them as helpful. However, the survey gives some pointers to areas that need improvement. Small firms are less aware of HSE than larger ones and are more likely to feel health and safety requirements are bureaucratic and expensive. MORI conclude that the challenge for HSE is to embed the same health and safety culture in small enterprises as successfully as it has in larger ones.

‘Attitudes towards health and safety: a quantitative survey of stakeholder opinion’, by MORI Social Research Institute can be accessed on the HSE website [pdf]

PUBLIC ENQUIRIES: Call HSE's InfoLine, Tel: 08701 545500, or write to: HSE Information Services, Caerphilly Business Park, Caerphilly CF83 3GG.

PRESS ENQUIRIES regarding this press release: Journalists only: Mark Wheeler
020 7717 6905