Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/512/3466
Who safeguards safety?
THE COURTS disqualify company directors who risk cash hundreds of times more often than directors who risk people's health and safety, says the Health and Safety Executive.
They quote evidence from a University of Warwick study that since the introduction of a director disqualification act in the mid-1980s only ten directors have been disqualified for breaching health and safety laws compared to over 1,500 each year for breaches of financial rules.
But increased sanctions by themselves are not enough. Few offenders are prosecuted, as most workplaces are only inspected, on average, once every 13-20 years due to poor inspector staffing.
A new World Health Organisation report says that rigorous enforcement, backed up by active unions, is the best way to deliver safety at work. Unions, the report says, "dramatically increase enforcement of the occupational safety and health acts," ensure the presence of health and safety committees and of fully trained safety representatives.
Lying over leaks?
SEVERN TRENT, Britain's second biggest water company, is facing criminal prosecution for misreporting data on leaks to Ofwat, the water industry regulator.
Whistle-blowers had alleged that the company had exaggerated bad debts to justify inflated price rises for customers. For that, Ofwat ordered Severn Trent to give customers £42 million back. But the whistle-blowers also claimed that the company had submitted false leakage figures and Ofwat thought these were so serious that it handed over evidence to the Serious Fraud Office.
False figures have an impact on customers' bills as Ofwat compares water company performance in order to fix prices. Southern Water have already been fined for misreporting (see the socialist 511) and other private water companies such as the biggest, Thames Water, and a smaller one, Three Counties, are also under investigation.
In The Socialist 29 November 2007:
Environment and socialism
What we think
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Marxist analysis: history
Workplace news and analysis