Unions in uproar over Cable's red tape "blitz"

Unions warn government will have “blood on its hands” over scrapping health and safety inspections

Unions have reacted with outrage to plans by Business Secretary Vince Cable to abolish health and safety inspections for thousands of businesses across Britain.

Billy Hayes, general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, said that the government would have “blood on its hands” if Cable goes through with his plans.

“Health and safety is not an unnecessary piece of bureaucracy; it helps to save lives and improve the health and wellbeing of workers in all workplaces. Accidents in the workplace can be life-destroying so we want to prevent them, not make them more likely. Cutting pro-active inspections could be disastrous. Moving to a reactive system would mean that people would have to be injured, become ill or die before any inspection took place, rather than preventing these incidents happening in the first place” he said.

“This is yet another attack on working people. The government is showing its contempt for ordinary working people by making this move. It’s a regressive step which takes workplace wellbeing backwards. We urge the government to rethink quickly before any damage is done.”

Meanwhile, the TUC warned that changes to health and safety legislation would put lives at risk. TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:

“Contrary to myths peddled by ministers, the UK is facing an occupational health epidemic. Over 20,000 people die every year as a result of a disease they got through their work and a further 1.9 million people are living with an illness caused by their work.

“Some of the “low risk” workplaces identified by the government, such as shops, actually experience high levels of workplace injuries. This will only get worse if employers find it easier to ignore safety risks.

“This epidemic will only be stopped by ensuring that employers obey the law, and when every employer knows their workplace can be visited at any time.

“Health and safety regulation is not a burden on business, it is a basic protection for workers. Cutting back on regulation and inspections will lead to more injuries and deaths as result of poor safety at work.”

And Mike Macdonald, of the Prospect union, said that any “burden” from health and safety legislation was a “myth”.

“The idea that health and safety legislation is a burden is ludicrous given that there are only 200 health and safety regulations in total, so any reduction in these will be a tiny percentage of the 3,000 cited by government.

“This smacks of jumping on the health and safety bashing bandwagon again. The government’s own advisor Lord Young highlighted how damaging to perceptions of health and safety scurrilous stories are. Yet Vince Cable is clearly using the technique to mislead UK SMEs.”

“Far from being an albatross round the neck of business, research shows that a safe and healthy workforce is more efficient and productive.”

On Monday, Cable announced that there would be a “blitz” on red tape as the government sought to abolish over 3,000 regulations.

He revealed that thousands of businesses would be made exempt from health and safety inspections, unless they are classified as “high-risk” firms or have a poor record.


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