The union said it was "alarmed at the signals" sent out by an HSE consultation calling for an end to employers' obligation to report occupational health absences from diseases such as lead poisoning and many disabling lung and skin diseases of which many workers are at risk.
This is despite the fact that work-related diseases give rise to more occupational ill-health and deaths than work-related injuries, said Health and Safety Officer Sarah Page.
Prospect represents more than 1,600 inspectors and specialists in the Health and Safety Executive and Office for Nuclear Regulation, as well as over 20,000 engineers and managers with statutory responsibility for safety in hazardous workplaces.
The RIDDOR consultation also proposes to remove:
• the duty on employers to report many dangerous occurrences that give strong early warnings of a potential disaster
• reporting of non-fatal accidents to the public, eg by building sites, at waste sites or funfairs.
"We agree with the need to simplify the regulations," said Page. "But we object to ill-conceived, deregulatory proposals that have no evidence to back them. These proposals would remove reporting requirements for many serious hazardous incidents and jeopardise opportunities for justice expected by the public from its health and safety regulator. Worryingly it would also signal to employers that the occupational health of their workforce is no longer important."
The HSE consultation uses low reporting levels as a reason to remove the obligation to report on occupational health incidents at work, except for exposure to biological agents. "Since when was it government policy to scrap a law because it is ignored by duty holders?" said Page.
"What's more employer organisations like the Energy Networks Association don't think these changes will reduce burdens on business. Government needs to listen to those who manage risk before simply repealing legislation for its own sake. This sends employers an appalling message, only weeks after the report into the Hillsborough disaster revealed how non-compliance with health and safety requirements can have catastrophic outcomes."
Prospect is calling for a full review with genuine engagement of employers and unions to explore how the RIDDOR regulations can be clarified and made more effective. You can read the union's full response in the Prospect library.