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Cuts to Health & Safety Inspections a Worrying Thing for Society

By Principal Lawyer, Occupiers and Public Liability

I saw a article in the Guardian Newspaper recently which immediately caught my attention. The reason is that I have already been blogging about the Health and Safety Executive and what I anticipate is likely to be the future namely that Government cuts would affect inspections which in turn could lead to more injuries occurring. This is of course not guaranteed.

By this I mean that what I anticipated was likely, is a potential reduction in spending as far as the Health and Safety Executive is concerned and therefore no doubt the reduction in inspections, not guaranteed to lead to more injuries occurring I hear you say!

It does however stand to reason that if fewer inspections take place, there is less of an opportunity for enforcement notices to be served, less of an opportunity for matters to be put right as far as individuals and companies that are in breach of health and safety legislation (I have blogged previously as to why it is so important that we have health and safety legislation to minimise the risk of injuries). I now read that health and safety inspections are to be cut by a third.

There is apparently a deregulatory drive being pushed through Whitehall. This is ahead of the “go for growth” budget due to be introduced in April. It would appear that the Work and Pensions Minister, Chris Grayling is suggesting that only inspections at high risk sites which apparently include energy, nuclear sites and chemical industries should be the focus.

The proposals call to end automatic inspections to medium and low risk industries. I recall not so long ago, an employers' liability claim about an employee who had fallen into a large industrial mixer. This was a sort of mixer that makes large quantities of food. It had sharp blades. The purpose of course was to cut up food. The employee fell into the mixer. He did so as a guard in front of the mixer was not working. It had been defective for some time. He lent against the guard thinking that it would be safe to do so. It was not. He fell into the mixer whilst it was working and as you can imagine was killed straight away.

I wonder whether a food producing company that has clearly breached health and safety legislation and would be subject to penalties if an inspection had been carried out, falls within the definition of high risk industries. Probably not.

Is Mr Grayling suggesting that serious work accidents sometimes involving loss of life but otherwise involving loss of limbs only occurs in high risk industry or is he suggesting given the financial situation that we are all in, the ‘greater good’ should be considered and that it is only those industries that are likely to cause significant loss of life, putting whole communities at risk such as an industrial or chemicals site should be inspected because there simply is not the money to inspect the smaller sites.I fail to see the logic in the thinking.

The country is clearly in a financial mess. The suggestion is that we will have to, as a European Community, bail out Portugal. We must do so for the ‘greater good’ and to prevent the banking system collapsing which will all lead us into a Depression to rival the ‘20s.

Meanwhile bonuses still are paid in massive quantity to ensure those considered to be ‘elite’ are kept in their jobs in this City. I read in the same paper that George Osborne, the Chancellor is under pressure to back down on his plans to impose a £2billion windfall tax on North Sea oil and gas companies. I am sure these oil and gas companies will feel the pinch however I am equally sure that they will survive and make massive profits as they usually do, in the same way that the banks have recovered remarkably well from coming close to collapse. I hope that Mr Osborne sticks to his guns.

Tristan Hallam is a Principal Personal Injury Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.

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