The report, ‘Regulatory Surrender: death, injury and the non-enforcement of law’, reveals that policy changes have affected the ability of the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) to enforce health and safety law. Researchers found that the number of inspections made of business premises has fallen by 69% and investigations of health and safety incidents has declined by 68%. The report also shows a 48% reduction in prosecutions of companies who have breached HSE regulations.
The Government has recently announced a wide-ranging review of health and safety laws in response to claims that UK industry had been `saturated’ by health and safety legislation under the Labour government. Researchers at Liverpool, however, have found that the HSE’s power to inspect and enforce health and safety regulations has been reduced, resulting in increased numbers of employers at risk from accident or injury at work.
Dr David Whyte, Reader in Sociology at the University of Liverpool, said: “The idea that health and safety has ‘gone mad’ does not seem to hold true. The collapse in inspection, investigation and enforcement has dramatically reduced the chances of businesses being detected and prosecuted for committing safety offences. Most serious injuries now are not even investigated. For example, only a third of amputations are now investigated by the Health and Safety Executive.”
Professor Steve Tombs, at Liverpool John Moores University, said: “HSE’s senior’s management have effectively surrendered to the Government’s lighter touch regulatory agenda. Not only is the agency now more vulnerable to further ‘reviews’ of regulation, but workers too are increasingly vulnerable – as managements are far less likely to respond to workers’ demands to comply with the law in the absence of a credible enforcement threat.”
Notes to editors:
1. The report is being launched at a conference `Health and safety: a new agenda at work?’ on Tuesday, 13 July at the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool. Speakers include David Ashton, Director of Field Operations at the HSE; Rita Donaghy, author of the DWP report, `One Death is Too Many: An Inquiry into the Underlying causes of Construction Fatal Accidents’ and Dennis Doody form UCATT, the construction industry union. For further details of the conference please visit the website: www.ier.org.uk/events or telephone 0151 702 6935.
2. The University of Liverpool is a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive institutions in the UK. It attracts collaborative and contract research commissions from a wide range of national and international organisations valued at more than £98 million annually.
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