The Labour Party this week exhorted the government to ‘up your game’ and fully resource safety inspections to give workers confidence that they can safely return to work outside the home.
On Monday (June 15) it said that 10 years of cuts have left the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authorities without the resources they need to carry out adequate physical inspections and to support workers and employers during the Covid-19 crisis.
As more of the economy reopens this week, Labour is publishing research showing that since 2010, government funding for the HSE has been cut by more than half, the number of inspectors has dropped by more than a third, there have been 30 per cent fewer enforcement notices, a 62 per cent fall in prosecutions and a 50 per cent fall in convictions.
Local authorities’ spending on health and safety has also fallen by over 40 per cent.
It indicates that, on average, employers will only see an inspector once every 275 years. But most workers say spot inspections should be conducted in person, and key workers whose work is affected by the coronavirus have identified health and safety as their main concern.
Shadow employment rights secretary Andy McDonald said: “Laws to protect workers are not worth the paper they’re written on if we cannot enforce them. The government has been too slow too often in tackling the coronavirus outbreak and needs to up its game.
“Workers need to be able to trust the prime minister when he says it is safe to return to work outside the home, and have confidence that their health and their families’ health will be protected.
“Without full resourcing, there cannot be an effective system for workplace inspections, putting workers, their families and the public at risk, and undermining the national effort to fight this virus.”