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It mostly covers my work as UNISON Scotland's Head of Policy and Public Affairs although views are my own. For full coverage of UNISON Scotland's policy and campaigns please visit our web site. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Health & Safety Week

This is European Health and Safety Week when we seek to raise awareness of workplace health and safety.

This year's events take place against the background of the UK Government slashing the budget of the Health and Safety Executive and planning to dilute existing legislation to remove the allegedly "unfair burden" on business. We have heard plenty of similar nonesense from Euro sceptic Tory MPs today. When they talk about the burden of EU regulation, they mean issues like health and safety. After the banking collapse you would have thought MPs would have learnt some lessons about the importance of regulation.

The minister concerned has been keen to meet with representatives of big business. However, he has repeatedly snubbed the families of those killed due to employer negligence. The campaign group FACK accuses the minister of downplaying the cost of health and safety failures while inflating the cost to business of compliance with safety laws.

They write: "Your answer to a parliamentary question from Ian Lavery MP in June put the cost of health and safety failures at £20 billion per year. This is the bottom end of a £20-£31.8 billion HSE estimate, based on 10-year-old prices, but does not include the cost of cancers and other long latency work-related conditions which would add another £20 billion at least. What you do not explain is that the negligent employers who fail to take health and safety seriously and comply with the law bear less than 25 per cent of the cost of their actions, exporting the 75 per cent of £40-£50bn cost per year on to the whole economy - a tax on good employers and all of us alike."

More than 1.2 million people currently at work have health problems caused by their jobs. The problem is not just bad employers using health and safety as an excuse but the UK government using safety myths as a reason for cutting back on regulation, enforcement and guidance.

The Wednesday of European Health and Safety Week has been designated "National Inspection Day" when all safety representatives are asked to inspect their workplace. This not only helps make our workplaces safer , but also raises awareness of safety at work. Given the direction of travel of the UK Government on safety, we will need to redouble our efforts to safeguard the workplace.

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