Safety under attack

IN January, Prime Minister David Cameron made an outspoken attack on health and safety regulation.

He said that he was ‘waging war against the excessive health and safety culture that has become an albatross around the neck of British businesses’ and that businesses had to ‘battle against a tide of risk assessment forms’.

The Government has also said that we do not need any more regulation because Britain is one of the safest countries in the world.

This is clearly untrue – according to the Health and Safety Risk Index, published in January 2010 the UK’s health and safety performance was 20th out of the 34 OECD developed nations.

The Government should not be attacking regulation but should be focusing its resources on the cost to employers of sickness absence caused by injuries and ill-health at work.

This has been estimated by the employers’ organisation, the CBI, to be £3.7bn a year. What makes the figures worse is this excludes the cost to insurers, the health service, central Government and most importantly to the workers themselves.

The Government’s attack on health and safety laws destroys the consensus that has existed around health and safety for the last 40 years.

It will make it harder to get the laws we need in areas where there are new risks and could lead to Britain having some of the lowest levels of protection in Europe.

It appears that the Government is saying to business that health and safety laws that have been hard fought for with the lives of many thousands of workers over the last 200 hundred years or so are unnecessary and do not matter.

Please support the TUC Day of Action to defend health and safety.

This will be held this Saturday, which is International Workers Memorial Day when we traditionally remember the dead and fight for the living.  

Never has that message been more important than now. Let’s ensure that we make it clear that we want clear commitments and action from those who should be protecting us.

If you are working on April 28 then please take time to observe a minute’s silence at noon to remember those who left home for work but never returned

Unison South Tyneside Branch.