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HSE unveils 10-point strategy to tackle death and injury at work

More then 136,000 people were seriously injured and 229 people lost their lives at work in 2008 and the Health and Safety Executive today unveiled a new strategy to improve the British workplace's health and safety record.
HSE unveils 10-point strategy to tackle death and injury at work
In 2007/08, there were 136,771 non-fatal injuries to employees reported and 2,056 mesothelioma deaths (asbestos-reated cancer).

In response to findings from a three-month HSE consultation with bosses, industry representatives, trades unions, MPs and employees, a new HSE strategy was launched by Judith Hackitt CBE, chair of HSE, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Rt. Hon James Purnell, and Brendan Barber, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress at Westminster on June 3.

The HSE strategy outlines 10 goals for its organisation. These are:-

1) To investigate work-related accidents and ill health and take enforcement action to prevent harm and secure justice when appropriate.

2) To encourage strong leadership in championing the importance of health and safety in the workplace.

3) To motivate focus on the core aims of health and safety and to help risk makers and managers distinguish between real health and safety issues and trivial or ill-informed criticism.

4) To encourage a rise in competence, which will enable greater ownership and profiling of risk, thereby promoting sensible and proportionate risk management.

5) To reinforce the promotion of worker involvement and consultation in health and safety matters.

6) To target key health issues and to work with those bodies best placed to bring about a drop in the incidence rate and number of cases of work-related ill health.

7) To set priorities and, within those priorities, to identify which activities deliver a significant reduction in the rate and number of deaths and accidents.

8) To customise approaches to help SMEs in different sectors comply with health and safety obligations.

9) To reduce the likelihood of low frequency, high impact catastrophic incidents while ensuring that Great Britain maintains its capabilities in those industries strategically important to the country's economy and social infrastructure.

10) To take account of wider issues that impact on health and safety as part of the continuing drive to improve Great Britain's health and safety performance.

'While the economic climate is difficult and the temptation for some may be to cut corners, HSE, its partners and businesses must resolve to continue to strive to improve health and safety performance. Good health and safety is good business', said Judith Hackitt, HSE Chair.

Some 34 million working days were lost because of work-related ill health or workplace injury last year and the annual cost to society is estimated to be £20bn.

The new strategy called 'Be part of the solution' is based on results of the consultation which included online interviews of British workers between May 1 and May 11, 2009. The participants were 200 business leaders (owners or senior management of firms with 2-500 employees in Great Britain) and 1,002 employees (middle management or lower from firms of any size).

The survey revealed half of respondents (56% of business leaders and 52% of employees) correctly identify that working in construction is the most dangerous job in Great Britain in terms of the highest risk of having an accident in the workplace.

The HSE said the number of people killed or seriously injured at their place of work in Great Britain is hugely underestimated.

One in three business leaders (36%) agree that the 'stick' as opposed to the 'carrot' is the most effective way to improve health and safety practices (meaning that the number of inspections should be increased).

Only half of business leaders (47%) assert that health and safety is at the centre of their business. A quarter (26%) admits that their organisation will face pressure to cut the health and safety budget in the recession.

Two-thirds of business leaders (67%) and seven in ten employees (70%) believe that rather than being sued, businesses often use health and safety as an excuse to stop doing something.

A third (36% of business leaders and 37% of employees) believe health and safety has gone mad or gone too far in their workplace in the last few years.

Three in five business leaders (60%) strongly agree that they feel safe in their workplace, compared to just one in three (35%) employees.

Some 22% of workers in small businesses fear that their employer will cut health and safety corners in the recession, compared to just 16% in large organisations.

Economists from the HSE say the evidence from previous recessions indicate that injury rates fall during periods of reduced economic activity because there are fewer newly-hired (inexperienced) workers, so the average risk of injury falls.

The HSE said there is some evidence that 'corner cutting' by employers in times of recession can lead to increasing rates of injury. This might be because bosses cutting back on investment and training or because of the weaker bargaining position of workers due to higher unemployment.

In the last UK recession, (1989-1993) the rate of reported major injuries fell by more than 10%. The effects are most felt in the construction and manufacturing sectors.

With regard to 'corner cutting', in one survey one tenth of workers said they are fearful of raising concerns about health and safety issues in the current economic climate, but half of company directors stated they would cut bonuses rather than cut health and safety spending.

Businesses are being called on to sign the HSE's pledge to work towards health and safety strategy, which asks that they 'Be Part of the Solution'. Signing the pledge means firms:-

- Agree to play our part in reducing the numbers of work-related deaths, injuries and ill-health in Great Britain.

- Call on employers to put health and safety at the heart of what they do and to take a common sense approach to health and safety.

- Commit to debunking myths around health and safety that trivialise the impact of injuries, ill health and deaths on individuals and their families.

- Recognise the importance of health and safety in difficult economic times and the dangers of complacency.

- Pledge to work with the Health and Safety Executive and its partners to Be Part of the Solution.

You can sign up to the pledge
here
3 June 2009

Comments

By Mike Thompson
03 June 2009 01:01:00
Why is this country unable to oppose the HSE?

Who invents the laws that govern the normal everyday worker in this country? The HSE have gone way over the top!

We carry out a CSCS course, which informs sites we are competent in H&S. Why on earth then do we need hard hats inside a finished building, goggles that make your eyes see warped images and gloves that stop sensitivity. Steel toe caps when working inside? Hard Hats when someone is digging a hole with nothing overhead?

It's a bureaucracy that makes hundreds of decent men turn into wimps. Sure plant and machinery should be monitored and inspected by independent bodies, but not intelligent human beings!

It is about time that an organisation was formed to crush and stamp out petty laws, that are costing the individual time and money.

We are the only country in Europe to tolerate such whimsical rules and regulations from a governing body, which has to make rules for themselves to be able to justify there existence.

We need a good general site foreman and to chuck out the bureaucratic bodies that cram the site offices with their allotted parking spaces!
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