Government safety cuts calculated on back of envelope

Construction union UCATT has discovered that the Government’s decision to cut vital proactive safety inspections was taken without a detailed formula, without an impact assessment and without any investigation of increased risks to workers or the general public.

In March 2011 the Department of Work and Pensions announced that the number of proactive (knock on the door) inspections being undertaken by the Health and Safety Executive would be cut by a third (11,000 inspections).

The decision effectively ended proactive inspections in many sectors: including agriculture, quarries and docks. The announcement was contained in the DWP’s publication Good Health and Safety, Good for Everyone.

The decision has meant that the number of proactive inspections being undertaken by the HSE is effectively capped at 22,000 per annum.

UCATT submitted a Freedom of Information Request to the DWP asking for documents detailing the formula used to reduce the number of inspections to 22,000 per annum, a copy of the impact assessment used in making the decision and any papers detailing any potential increased risks to workers or the general public in reducing the number of proactive inspections.

The DWP replied: “The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) does not hold the information you require. The information you require is held by the Health & Safety Executive you should ask them directly for this information.

UCATT submitted the same FOI submission to the HSE.

The HSE replied: “I am writing to advise you that following a search of our paper and electronic records, I have established that the information you requested is not held by the HSE. The reduction in the number of proactive inspections by on “sic” third was stated in ‘Good Health and Safety, Good for Everyone’ published on 21 March 2011.

Steve Murphy, General Secretary of UCATT, said: “This is disgusting the Government have gambled with people’s lives with calculations basically made on the back of an envelope.”

Mr Murphy added: “The cuts in proactive inspections are making workplaces more dangerous for workers and the general public. People will have been injured and possibly have lost their lives due to this decision and yet there is no evidence or research to identify the risks. The Government must explain why they did this.”

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