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From: The Socialist issue 860, 17 June 2015: Tory-busters: organise, strike, resist

Search site for keywords: Health and safety - Health - hse - injuries

The real health and safety 'madness'

Michael Barker

Health and safety gone mad! When I finished school (in 1994), starry-eyed and eager to join the great British workforce, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) - the body responsible for looking after workers' health - employed some 5,545 staff.

To be honest I always thought they needed more employees to get their job done. But eleven years on, this number was 3,903 and falling.

Further reductions

"What's going on?" I asked myself. This decline was out of the ball park: health and safety insanity. By 2013 things were getting even madder, now our entire country employed only 2,769 HSE workers.

So only one in 20 major injuries are investigated by the HSE, and only one in 170 results in prosecution.

Now if that isn't health and safety 'gone mad', what is? Yet the jury is already in: health and safety regulations benefit all society, not just the workers whose lives are in danger.

"Available evidence suggests inspection and enforcement activities can stimulate innovation, have no negative and a probable positive effect on job creation, support economic activity, and reduce costs to business though sickness absence and improved performance," concludes one recent report.

But the madness seemingly never ends. The Con-Dem Coalition coldly cut state funding for HSE by over 40% over its last term in power.

As an organisation designed to keep our employers in check, the HSE, which might have had some regulatory teeth in the past, is now as gummy as a cartoon OAP.

Trade unions

Trade unions have trained up thousands of health and safety reps - that's why unionised workplaces are safer workplaces as well as being better paid.

But with the new government, our safety appears to be even more in the hands of money-grubbing, union-hating bosses.

So get involved in the fightback and join me and many other active trade unionists at the conference of the National Shop Stewards Network on 4 July.







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