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Safety manifesto to reduce workplace injuries

Posted in: Employer Negligence Workplace Injuries 

At a time when the Government’s approach to health and safety reforms has been criticised for prioritising the reduction of red tape over the safety of Britain’s workers, trade union body the TUC has published details of its safety manifesto.

The manifesto includes ten key recommendations that the TUC believes could improve the UK’s safety record, and prevent a good many of the 20,000 workplace-related injuries and deaths that it says occur in the UK every year.

Regular safety inspections

The TUC’s top recommendation to improve workplace safety is an increase in the number of regular safety inspections. According to the TUC, employers would be more likely to place a higher importance on the safety of their workers if they know that a visit from a Health and Safety Executive or local authority inspector could take place.

A recent paper by Rory O’Neill, Professor of Occupational Health Policy Research at Stirling University, is very critical of cuts to the safety inspections carried out by the HSE.

According to the report, 37 industry sectors, which employ the majority of the workforce, are now exempt from unannounced safety inspections. These sectors include agriculture, quarries, electricity generation & supply and other high risk industries.

Professor O’Neill claims that this reduction in inspections has led to tragic consequences. In the 18 months from 1st April 2011 to 31st October 2012, 53% of workplace fatalities were in un-inspected sectors, he says.

Union safety reps

In its manifesto, the TUC has also called for all workplaces employing more than ten people to be required to have a union safety representative. This rep should have the power to be able to call in the appropriate safety authorities if they believe that their employer is ignoring safety concerns.

Figures from the TUC show that the 150,000 union safety reps currently in place in UK workplaces have helped to prevent up to 13,000 accidents and 8,000 work-related illnesses a year.

Occupational health services

The TUC further recommends that all workers should be given access to occupational health services. This, claims the TUC, could help prevent the occurrence of around 450,000 cases a year of conditions like stress, back pain and repetitive strain injury.

This would also be beneficial for employers, and the economy as a whole, as more workers would be able to return to their jobs and avoid becoming dependent on benefits.

Additional recommendations

The TUC manifesto makes seven further key recommendations for the improvement of workplace safety. These are:

  • The introduction of lower limits regarding dust in the workplace – dust exposure kills thousands of workers a year and can cause lung cancer, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, as well as throat and nose cancers.
  • Removing carcinogens from the workplace as much as possible, in order to minimise workers’ exposure to cancer-causing substances. The TUC acknowledges that complete removal may not be possible, but claims that risks can always be minimised.  
  • Limiting the maximum acceptable temperature at work to 30°C for employees working indoors, or 27°C for those involved in strenuous work. In addition, employers should be legally required to protect staff working outside in hot weather by providing them with sun protection and a ready supply of water.
  • Strengthening the remit of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority to provide better protection for groups of vulnerable workers, such as domestic workers.
  • A new legal duty on directors that would set out the safety responsibilities of company directors and change boardroom attitudes towards company health and safety.
  • Restricting eligibility to bid for public contracts to firms that can demonstrate a good safety record and a commitment to promoting the wellbeing of their workforce.
  • The UK should adopt and comply with all the health and safety conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Currently the Government has failed to ratify a number of key ILO conventions including those on asbestos, construction and agriculture, and is therefore compromising the safety of millions of UK workers, claims the TUC.

 


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