AMID the acres of column inches about violence on Britain’s streets, a greater cause of death and injury takes its toll with scarcely a mention.
You are in fact more likely to be killed by working than you are through some act of interpersonal violence.
I had the author of a shocking new report into the collapse of workplace safety standards on my radio show the other week.
Professor Steve Tombs outlined how there has been a staggering 49 per cent fall in enforcement notices brought by the Health and Safety Executive. The cause is twofold.
First, the HSE is facing year-on-year cuts, which are affecting the number of inspectors that it deploys, as well as other vital staff. Second, there is a doctrinal shift, under the Establishment mania for deregulation, from enforcement to advice.
In other words, voracious corporations are to be advised on how to improve health and safety, but are not to feel the discipline of inspections and enforcement to make sure that that advice has been heeded. It is a staggering retreat for a Labour government.
For it was a Labour government, freshly elected in 1974, which brought in the Health and Safety at Work Act. That was the fruit of the preceding years of labour militancy. Now, it is being whittled away and the body meant to oversee it is being left to wither.
In conjunction with Tombs and the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King’s College London, I’ve tabled an early day motion (number 1855) calling for the recommendations of the Commons select committee which oversees the HSE to be implemented.
They include giving workplace safety reps the legal right to stop the job if a hazard is identified and publicising the sentences for safety breaches imposed on directors. I hope that you’ll encourage your MP to sign it.
Over the years, much of the media has reduced health and safety matters to bogus stories about “banning conkers” in playgrounds – something that was never true, by the way.
In fact, it is about the legitimate expectation of workers that they will clock off in one piece and that they won’t be worked into an early grave.
Next month will bring the fourth anniversary of the deaths of two firefighters in my constituency – Adam Meere and Bill Faust – who were killed while attending a fire at a shop on Bethnal Green Road.
It’s time that the minds of parliamentarians, most of whom wouldn’t plunge into a darkened room for a firefighter’s pay cheque, were concentrated.