Chair of Prospect’s HSE branch, Neil Hope-Collins, said: “The BBC, Panorama and Quentin Letts should be congratulated for highlighting the importance of occupational health and safety regulation.”
However, on behalf of inspectors, policy advisers, scientists and managers within the Health and Safety Executive Branch, Hope-Collins expressed concern that this message was undermined by exaggeration and misinterpretation of selected policies, mirroring the very approach the programme aspired to tackle.
“This masked the bigger picture: many employees continue to be exposed to excessive risk at work” explained Hope-Collins.
And not just in construction, a focus of the programme. “While the programme illustrated very clearly the misery caused by accidents within the construction industry – which saw a 28% increase in fatalities last year – it failed to acknowledge that there are other high-risk occupations,” said Hope-Collins.
“Agriculture and waste industries experience higher fatality rates and any increase in resources for construction must not jeopardise those required elsewhere.”
Sarah Page, Prospect’s Health and Safety Officer, said: “Prospect is concerned that cuts imposed on HSE in recent years have seen the number of inspectors and support staff drop to around three quarters of 1993 values, despite the evidence of a clear correlation between proactive investigation and improvements in health and safety performance.”
She also welcomed the comments made by UCATT’s General Secretary Alan Ritchie in emphasising the pivotal role of Trade Union health and safety reps who have a proven track record for their positive health and safety contributions at work.
Neil Hope-Collins would like to invite Quentin Letts to find out more: “We would like to offer Quentin the opportunity to meet with our members in HSE to discuss the valuable work they do and how they go about it.”
The two pieces of legislation specifically quoted in the programme were:
- Noise at Work Regulations, the 85dB exposure limit referred to in the legislation is an average over an eight-hour 'standard industrial working day', not the peak levels as implied in the program.
- Section 12 of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, specifically the duty to “ensure that a work platform is not used in any position unless it has been inspected in that position” referred to in the programme does not apply to ladders as was stated and only applies to work platforms and scaffold.