Work and Pensions Committee Press Notice

Press notice No. 15 of Session 2007-08




EMBARGOED: NOT FOR PUBLICATION OR BROADCAST BEFORE 00.01 HRS MONDAY 21 APRIL 2008

'COMMITTEE CALLS FOR URGENT ACTION TO IMPROVE HEALTH AND SAFETY ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITY'

The Report of Session 2007-08 from the Work and Pensions Select Committee, entitled "The role of the Health and Safety Commission and the Health and Safety Executive in regulating workplace health and safety" (HC 246), will be published on 21 April 2008 at 00:01.

The Committee calls on the Government to introduce a system of accreditation for health and safety consultants to counter some of the problems caused by over-zealous consultants who encourage employers to be over-cautious in their interpretation of their health and safety duties, needlessly adding to the burden of compliance.

HSE should increase its deployment of resources to front-line inspection, the Committee recommends. Evidence to the Committee convinced it that increasing the number of inspections carried out by HSE is the best means of improving workplace health and safety standards and preventing workplace accidents.

The Committee also takes the view that current penalties for heath and safety offences are too low.

The increase in the number of fatalities in the construction industry; the offshore industry's failure to manage risks effectively; and health and safety risks to migrant workers are key areas of concern for HSE. The Committee commends the work that HSE has done on the Construction Forum, its review of North Sea assets and its planned research on migrant workers but it questions whether these actions are enough to rectify the problems in these sectors.

The Committee supports Dame Carol Black's call for a fully developed occupational health service, but it does not believe that this service should be delivered by HSE.

The Chairman of the Committee, Terry Rooney MP, said, "HSE needs an effective enforcement strategy to ensure that employers comply with their health and safety obligations. Where duties are not met, penalties must reflect the seriousness of the threat to workers' safety."

He added, "At present businesses can expect an HSE inspection just once every 14.5 years; this is not enough to act as a deterrent to those employers tempted to cut corners on health and safety. HSE must increase its levels of inspection to improve protection for workers, particularly in the construction and offshore industries. Increasing inspection rates should be HSE's primary focus."