According to a new TUC survey of more than 1000 health and safety reps published on 19 September, nearly half of UK workplaces have never had a health and safety inspection.
Manufacturing is the only sector in which a majority (57%) of safety reps said there had been an inspection during the past year. However, in the construction industry – where there were 65,000 work-related injuries and 67,000 work related illnesses in 2015 – only 17% of reps were aware of an inspection in the last year.
Nearly half of those surveyed said that as far as they know their workplace has never had an inspection by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Just 24% reported an inspection within the last 12 months.
Workplaces with dedicated health and safety reps are usually those larger workplaces where there are greater risks to workers.
By 2019/20 government funding of the HSE will have been slashed by nearly half, and in recent years, local councils have reduced workplace inspections by 97%. The government has also restricted the ability of workers to claim compensation if they are injured or made ill at work following employer negligence.
Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary said: “It’s deeply worrying that nearly half of health and safety reps say their workplace has never been inspected by the HSE.
“And I am appalled that 80% of reps in construction say their workplaces haven’t been inspected. Construction workplaces can be some of the most dangerous places to work.
“Huge cuts to the HSE and to local authorities continue to undermine vital safety protections at work. That means more workers at risk of accidents in unsafe workplaces every day. It’s time to fund the HSE properly and make sure bosses know that they can’t get away with chancing workers’ lives in dangerous workplaces.”
Earlier this month the TUC condemned the government’s appointment of a former employer and business leader to a seat on the board of the HSE that is reserved for a representative of workers’ interests.
The Health and Safety at Work Act requires the Secretary of State to appoint three members of the HSE after consulting organisations representing employees, and three members after consulting employers’ representatives.
However, the government has filled one of the employee representative seats with an employer representative, who has no background representing workers and was not nominated or supported by any bodies who represent workers. The TUC is concerned that the move is the latest in a series of government actions to silence the voices of working people on health and safety at work.
The findings of the TUC’s health and safety rep survey are available here.