An ‘orgy of slashing HSE’ since 2010!

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Building workers in the UCATT trade union campaigning for better health and safety

‘Since 2010, Coalition and Tory governments have indulged in an orgy of slashing the enforcement budgets of the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) and Local Authority watchdogs and extracting their teeth,’ warned the Hazards Campaign yesterday.

Hazards, together with 20 other different organisations, have come together for the first time in support of a new campaign, called Unchecked.uk, and signed a letter about the UK’s collapse of enforcement and safety checks on employers and manufacturers.

Shocking new figures released by the campaign yesterday show that important British standards are going ‘unchecked’, and safety, food, water and air quality standards are all under threat as vital inspections plummet, and laws are no longer enforced.

‘We support Unchecked.uk’ Hazards said yesterday because we want the hard fought for and won protective laws intended to keep us safe at work, at home, in the environment and community, when eating drinking and breathing, and when using products and services, to be properly enforced.

‘The system intended to protect workers’ lives and health in the UK is essentially broken, workers are harmed daily, and those most at risk now have no reasonable prospect of enforcement of their basic human right to safe and healthy work.

‘Employers cannot be trusted and UK governments have slashed workers’ lifelines and left an increasing trail of injuries, ill-health and death from despair at the brutish working conditions employers provide when no-one is checking on them.’

The Unchecked.uk campaign’s analysis, published yesterday, shows huge declines in the budgets and staff of enforcement agencies overseeing vital areas of public policy – including environmental protection, health and safety and consumer protection.

This has created a dangerous ‘enforcement gap’.

In a letter to last Tuesday’s The Times newspaper the twenty major organisations from across UK civil society, joining together under the Unchecked.uk umbrella, warned that the ‘steep reduction in inspections and monitoring of regulated business in recent years risks undermining the achievement of public policy objectives.’

Emma Rose of Unchecked.uk said: ‘The analysis we are publishing is alarming, and is cause for serious national concern.

‘With important regulators operating with on average 50% less funding than ten years ago, there is a need for a closer look at the state of our public protection infrastructure.

‘As a country we believe in fair play, common standards, and everyone playing by the same rules – but the truth is, the people we rely on to enforce those rules are being hamstrung.

‘Today, we have launched Unchecked.uk to show that vital protections can no longer be taken for granted.’

Errol Taylor, Chief Executive of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: ‘It is thanks to the work of public, private and third sector organisations that the UK’s world-leading safety system has, since the 1960s, saved the lives of at least 125,000 motorists and employees.

‘It is a record that we should all be extremely proud of.

‘However, in the last decade, a constant rise in home accidents is driving up hospital admissions, and putting increased pressure on other public services.

‘We need to stem this rise, and the best way to do this is through a combination of more, evidence-based interventions and a more robust regulatory regime.’

Arnold Pindar, Chairman of the National Consumer Federation said: ‘We live in an increasingly complicated world, and we expect high standards – clean air, safe water, and better goods and safe products.

‘Strong enforcement is needed to bear down on high-risk suppliers and rogues, and keep us safe from harm.

‘However, enforcement capacity has been cut back since the early 2000s, and Unchecked.uk’s research shows how serious this has become.

‘It confirms the major concerns highlighted by recent National Consumer Federation Consumer Congresses.

‘This cannot carry on.’

Kath Dalmeny, Chief Executive of Sustain, said: ‘When food production goes unchecked, recent history tells us all too clearly that we end up with dirty meat, food poisoning, food fraud and substitution with unexpected species such as horsemeat.

‘We all rely on independent enforcement teams to ensure that our food is safe, fit to eat, free from contamination and genuinely contains what it says on the label.

‘This will become ever more important and challenging as the UK opens up to new trade deals and food imports.

‘The Sustain food and farming alliance is proud to join diverse organisations in the Unchecked.uk campaign, unified in our support for high standards, trustworthy inspections and a safe and healthy food supply.’

The following letter was published in The Times newspaper on Tuesday:

‘Sir,

‘Our organisations represent diverse interests and priorities, but we are united in our concern about the growing pressure on local and national enforcement bodies, designed to keep us safe.

‘Never has it been more important to invest in our collective safeguards, yet analysis from the Unchecked.uk campaign shows the extent of the decline in the budgets and staff of enforcement agencies overseeing vital areas of public policy.

‘The country is asking local authorities and key regulators, including the Food Standards Agency, the Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and others, to do their work with on average 50 per cent less funding than ten years ago.

‘The steep reduction in inspections and monitoring of regulated business in recent years risks undermining the achievement of public policy objectives, and the shift towards industry self-reporting leaves the regulatory system vulnerable to abuse.

‘If enforcement teams are to continue their invaluable work to protect UK citizens, they must be properly equipped.

‘Signed Emma Rose, Unchecked.uk plus 20 others.’