Clegg slated for comments on health and safety


Clegg slated for comments on health and safety

Prospect and other organisations have lined up to condemn this week's speech by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg on cutting red tape, which called on the Health and Safety Executive to change its culture. Deputy general secretary Mike Clancy has invited Clegg to meet him, and to accompany a health and safety inspector to find out the true facts about inspections.

In an open letter to Clegg, Clancy challenged the assertion that small business are ‘hounded' by health and safety inspections.

Clegg had said that a range of bodies responsible for inspection - HMRC, the Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive - needed to undergo a culture change and understand "that their job is to make your life easier, not harder."

But Clancy's letter pointed out that even now, a small business with an average lifespan of seven years is more likely to fail than to receive a proactive inspection from a Health and Safety Executive inspector – typically such visits occur once in 15 years.

Clancy warned that even this level of regulation looks set to drop after swingeing government cuts resulted in proactive unannounced inspections - which aim to provide advice to avoid accidents – being axed by a third. See more comments in Prospect's news release here and read the open letter here.

Other organisations condemning Clegg's comments included the TUC, whose general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Regulation is there to protect us all from businesses that rip us off, trash our environment, and risk our health – or even our lives. However, it is only of use if it is enforced.

"Enforcement should not be seen as a burden on business, but instead a way of ensuring that good businesses are not undercut by cowboys who disregard the law and cut corners, whether it is on paying VAT or not polluting our rivers.

"Cuts in enforcement will put even more of us at risk of damaged health or injury or death in our workplaces."

Richard Jones, head of policy and public affairs at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, said: "Good health and safety isn't ‘red tape' – it saves lives, supports enterprise and sustains the economy. The government must ensure standards of public and worker protection will be maintained, before considering further cuts to health and safety inspections.

"We have repeatedly called for more support for businesses, so that they better understand the requirements and find them easier to comply with."

The Hazards campaign described Clegg's remarks as ‘utter cobblers' and said he should "show some respect for the facts, the truth and workers lives."