Health and Safety is ‘Key’ to Re-opening the Economy
The HSE’s union, Prospect, has highlighted the role health and safety will play as the UK emerges from lockdown – but UK Government roadmap fails to mention it.
The success of economic recovery is dependent on maintaining workplace safety for everyone – but to achieve that we need a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that is properly resourced, HSE union Prospect has stated. Mike Clancy, the union’s general secretary, stated talk of ‘Health and Safety gone mad’ and ‘red tape’ was never grounded in fact, adding “in the wake of a deadly global pandemic such talk would surely be laughed out of town. The reality is that Health and Safety is now the key to commerce, and smart regulation and enforcement is one of our best weapons in the battle to safely reopen businesses through the Spring and Summer.”
In a Prospect blog, Clancy said “it was more than a little surprising that the English government’s roadmap out of lockdown didn’t contain a single mention of the Health and Safety Executive, or the expert inspectors charged with ensuring that workplaces are made safe in time for workers to return.” He said “the main issue the HSE is facing is not lack of powers, it is lack of resources. When I speak to politicians about this, they are shocked to hear that there are more MPs than there are Health and Safety inspectors. In fact, the HSE has had its budget cut by more than 50 per cent in real terms since 2010, drastically hollowing out enforcement capacity… For less than half the cost of the failed Eat Out to Help Out scheme, the government could reverse all of the cuts to the HSE, so that it was fully funded for the rest of the parliament. Now, more than ever, workers across the UK deserve to be kept safe when they go into work. It’s up to the government to fill this gap in our defences and fully fund the HSE.”
There are ongoing headlines about the lack of funding for the HSE, which is being blamed for the HSE’s inaction over non-compliance with Covid-19 health and safety rules. The way out of the pandemic has always been to identify and control the risk at source – prevention and saving lives is preferable to retrospective punitive action once it’s too late. Economic recovery depends on setting up and maintaining safe workplaces, by engaging people to support a safety culture, using tools and systems that have been created to help do this.