Download The Government record on H&S [PDF]
Taking the ‘health’ out of ‘health and safety’
Far more people die as a result of a disease that they get from work than are killed in an ‘accident’. They are also far more likely to be made ill than injured. Over 70 per cent of sickness absence caused by work is due to either stress or musculoskeletal disorders such as back pain or RSI. All these are preventable.
Following pressure from trades unions and safety campaigners, the HSE began addressing these issues and developed targets to reduce the levels of illness caused by them. They funded research into occupational cancer, banned the use of asbestos, developed standards on stress and produced a number of useful tools on manual handling. Much of this was done in partnership with unions and during the 10-year period before the election the number of days lost through sickness absence fell by 20 per cent. Given that in 2010 the CBI claimed that work-related ill health was costing employers £3.7bn a year, this fall is saving employers almost a billion pounds every year.
Since the election, much of this work has been abandoned. The government’s policy document for health and safety, Good Health and Safety, Good for Everyone, published in 2011, did not even mention occupational illness or disease. Nor did the Young Review (see below).
The Temple Review of 2014 recognised the problem after it was raised in much of the evidence and highlighted the lack of work to tackle work-related ill health, but without resources and government commitment there is unlikely to be any change.