22 September 2016

Huge cuts to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authorities are undermining workplace safety, the TUC claimed this week as it published a survey showing that nearly half of UK workplaces have never had a health and safety inspection.

According to the TUC’s biennial survey of health and safety representatives 2016 (available at www.tuc.org.uk), 46% of respondents believe their workplace has never been inspected — with the figure rising to over 80% in construction.

The survey found that manufacturing is the only sector in which a majority (57%) of safety representatives reported an inspection in the past year.

Despite the construction industry seeing 65,000 work-related injuries and 67,000 work-related illnesses in 2015, just 17% of more than 1000 respondents were aware of an inspection in the past 12 months.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said she was appalled at the lack of inspections in the construction sector, especially as construction sites can be some of the most dangerous places to work.

Funding cuts are largely to blame for the lack of inspections, the TUC said, highlighting that — by 2019/20 — government funding of the HSE will have been cut by nearly half.

The situation has been compounded by cuts to local government, with local councils reducing workplace inspections by 97% in recent years.

With workers at risk of accidents in unsafe workplaces, the TUC says that it is time to fund the HSE properly and to make sure that bosses know “they can’t get away with chancing workers’ lives in dangerous workplaces”.

The TUC survey also covered hazards at work, with the five most frequently cited hazards in 2016 identified as: stress; bullying and harassment; overwork; back strains; and long working hours.