Friday, November 03, 2006

Health and Safety Executive: letting bosses off the hook

As a workplace health and safety rep, I have always found the fine people I sometimes speak to at the Health and Safety Executive - logo pictured left - helpful and pretty much on the ball. But as most trade unionists are aware, when it comes to enforcement rather than advice, the HSE is often ineffective.

So I wasn’t surprised to read this fact in today’s Financial Times [subscription required]:

‘The number of prosecutions by the HSE has almost halved in the past five years, falling from 1,986 in 2001-02 to 1,012 in 2005-06. The number of successful convictions is down from 1,522 to 741.’

Hmmm. It doesn’t seem intuitively likely that workplaces today are only half as dangerous as they were earlier in the decade.

The HSE itself admits that prosecutions have not happened in around one in ten cases where they were probably justified. Why?

But on a more encouraging note, prosecutions are up more than 20% since March, after an internal audit found that inspectors have been ‘underprosecuting’ in recent years.


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