Work and Pensions Committee: Press Notice

12 July 2009: For Immediate Release


The Fourth Report of Session 2008-09 from the Work and Pensions Select Committee, entitled "Workplace health and safety: follow-up report" (HC 635-I), will be published on 12 July 2009 at 00:01.

The Committee's report follows up on its previous inquiry in April 2009 into workplace health and safety and examines what more needs to be done to prevent accidents at work.

The Committee welcomes the introduction of new legislation, such as the Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008, which it hopes will lead to higher fines, where appropriate. for those who breach the law. However, it appears that board level commitment to prioritising health and safety is still too low weak. The Committee has endorsed the recommendation for positive duties on directors in Rita Donaghy's recent report into the underlying causes of fatalities in construction. We maintain that, if voluntary guidance is not working, the Government should legislate to ensure company directors take ownership for their employees' safety.

At the same time, it is crucial that the workforce is engaged in ensuring workplace safety. Increasing worker involvement is an investment that will reap its own rewards but to achieve this, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) must invest in worker involvement schemes and employees must feel free to report their health and safety concerns. Following the recent case of blacklisting in the construction industry, the Government must introduce regulations to eradicate this reprehensible practice as a matter of urgency.

Construction remains one of the most dangerous industries in the UK. The Committee warmly welcomes Rita Donaghy's report and supports a number of her recommendations. We similarly conclude that safety requirements should be incorporated into building regulations - this could prove an excellent means of addressing the persistently poor health and safety records of many companies, particularly in the refurbishment sector; saving lives and preventing accidents in the process.

The Chairman of the Committee, Terry Rooney MP, said, "Improving health and safety in the workplace is the responsibility of many. Employers need to understand their duties and where they breach them, they must be held to account. Employees also need to be aware of their role in creating a safe work environment and they should be involved through worker engagement schemes, not prevented through fear of blacklisting."

"Finally, the regulatory system must be used to best effect to ensure health and safety is embedded in working practices across all industries - including higher risk sectors. Amending building control regulations to include safety requirements will help to ensure that safety is at the forefront of planning on building sites and this should reduce the number of avoidable accidents.

"Construction fatalities are not restricted to large commercial sites. Too many deaths occur in small scale, often domestic sites; building regulations could be the best way to improve standards in this sector."