The comments follow the release of annual HSE figures which show the number of work-related fatalities for 2009/10 fell to 152, the lowest level since records began.
While commending HSE on its successes to-date, the Prospect union said 35% cuts in the government’s contribution to HSE’s budget, revealed in the spending review, will increase pressure on the regulator and undermine the delivery of occupational health and safety.
On behalf of safety professionals, including 1,650 inspectors, scientists and other specialists employed by HSE, Prospect deputy general secretary Mike Clancy said:
“Despite earlier misgivings, we greeted the government’s recent report into health and safety with some relief after Lord Young’s conclusions clearly recognised the strengths, sensitivity and professionalism of HSE’s approach and strategy.
“But our relief was short-lived. It cannot be in the national interest to reduce investment in a body whose mission is to prevent death, injury and ill-health – saving lives and costs – just days after lauding it as pivotal to the restoration of the UK’s occupational health and safety reputation and practice.”
Clancy added that work-related fatalities were only part of the picture. Work related ill-health threatens to rise sharply due to the increased pressures of the recession and HSE’s budget cut, leading to less guidance, fewer inspections and less enforcement across the board.
“Lord Young’s report was supposed to tackle the madness of the health and safety culture, but surely the cuts to HSE’s budget are the clearest example of safety gone mad!”