Health & Safety

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CWU Protect Health and Safety Campaign

31 July 2014

In May 2010, after the general election, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats coalition Government soon made it clear that it was set on undermining current levels of health and safety provision for UK workers and workplaces.

safety equipment

Negative Campaign Against Health and Safety

Despite having neither a public mandate, nothing specific in their election manifestos or anything set out in the Coalition Agreement, except one sentence in the Conservative manifesto that the party would "amend the health and safety laws that stand in the way of common sense", there has been a concerted attack and negative campaign against health and safety at work provision.

Health and Safety Reviews

There have been several reviews, including the 'Young review' of health and safety, the 'Löfstedt review' of health and safety and the 'Temple review' of the HSE, in addition the Government's "Red Tape Challenge" inviting anyone to suggest what health and safety provision, regulation etc should be cut.

Despite the fact that none of the review reports supported major changes or reductions in the UK's health and safety provision, structure and legislation, the government has rejected all positive recommendations and has continued its attempts to reduce the scope and effect of current health and safety legislation and introduce a form of voluntary compliance, weakening safety law enforcement and policing of compliance - plans that are still very much on their agenda. There have been significant cuts in HSE funding, forced cuts in the levels of HSE and Local Authority EHO inspections, a major round of deregulation, and the removal of protections, guidance and codes of practice with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), completely disrupted and forced to generate income to retain needed resources and survive in its current reduced state.

As a result, the consensus on health and safety that has existed across all political parties unbroken since the 1937 Factories Act has been broken by the current government that claims the priority is removing "burdens on business" rather than maintaining and monitoring the protection of workers.

Funding Cuts and Negative Changes

The Coalition government has: cut HSE funding by 40%, set up four reviews to look at the 'burden' of health and safety regulations and the HSE, drastically cut HSE and local authority safety inspections, blocked any new safety regulations and new European safety initiatives, removed a number of existing regulations, codes and guidance, cut support and guidance to employers and Union health and safety representatives, cut accident and disease reporting, drastically cut the HSE's work on occupational health issues, made it much harder for injured or ill workers to claim personal injury compensation and undermined the independence of the HSE. These negative changes will continue to have a significant effect on the health of workers.

CWU Position

In line with CWU Conference Polices carried since 2010 and TUC Congress Policies, supported by the CWU during the same period, the CWU Health, Safety & Environment Department is continuing to campaign to protect, restore and improve health and safety at work in all areas. As the next United Kingdom General Election of 2015 will be held on 7 May 2015, unless Parliament itself orders an earlier date, we are presently campaigning hard within the Labour party in a bid to ensure that the attacks on Health and Safety (H&S) by the ConDem Government are reversed by an incoming Labour administration.

In recent weeks the union has written to the Labour Opposition Shadow Health and Safety Minister Stephen Timms (copy attached) and to every Labour MP and shadow cabinet member asking for their support with regards to securing a series of improvements to existing Health & Safety legislation.

If the simple measures we are calling for are implemented they would have a huge impact on reducing the toll of death, injury and illness that is still an everyday part of working life for so many people. So far two meetings have taken place with the Health and Safety shadow minister Stephen Timms and his team, along with a group of other Union National Health and Safety Officers from the TUC Union H&S Committee, to press the TUC manifesto and our own conference policies. We have also briefed the CWU group of supported MPs who will themselves be asking for a meeting with Stephen Timms and pressing these issues, in support of the CWU. A considerable number of statements of support have already been received from Labour MPs, Scottish Labour MPs and Welsh Labour Assembly Members.

CWU's Simple Health and Safety Measures

The Communication Workers Union has developed the following list of simple measures that we want to see from a future Labour government. We are urging the Labour Party to include the following list in their Manifesto or supporting documentation for the next General Election.

  • All workplaces should be inspected regularly by the enforcing authority.
  • There should be revised regulations on safety representatives and safety committees to increase coverage and effectiveness.
  • Occupational health should have the same priority as injury prevention.
  • There should be a new, legally binding dust standard.
  • Exposure to carcinogens in the workplace must be removed.
  • There should be a law governing a maximum temperature in the workplace.
  • There should be increased protection for vulnerable and atypical workers.
  • There should be a legal duty on directors.
  • Health and safety to be a significant factor in all public sector procurement.
  • The UK government should adopt, and comply with, all health and safety conventions from the International Labour Organisation.
  • There should be an improved approach to occupational road risk with all 'at work' road traffic accidents to be reportable under RIDDOR.
  • To revoke the changes made to RIDDOR by the coalition government.
  • To increase the legal minimum tyre depth tread for commercial vehicles to improve road safety.
  • To reverse the negative changes to health and safety in the UK introduced by the government in response to the Young and Lofstedt reports.
  • To revise the Mesothelioma Act, extend the compensation arrangements and to introduce further medical research into the disease.
  • To introduce regulations to control the growing problem of work related stress.
  • To introduce strengthened and consistent enforcement of the amended Dangerous Dogs Act and to introduce Dog Control Notices (DCNs).
  • To introduce new regulations for an approved code of practice to protect outdoor workers from the growing risk of skin cancer as a result of sunlight exposure at work.
  • To introduce protection for ageing workers.