MP calls for clarity from government on Health and Safety funding

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03 May 2019
Wirral West MP Margaret Greenwood has used a parliamentary debate on preventing serious injury and fatalities while working at height to press the government on cuts in funding for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which, since 1974, has been responsible for safety in the workplace.

According to government figures, funding from the Treasury for the HSE is set to be over £100 million less this year than in 2009-10 – a cut of 45%, or almost half, over 10 years.

This is despite it being estimated in 2017-18 that 555,000 non-fatal injuries occurred at work. 8% of all non-fatal workplace injuries were due to a fall from height. During that period 144 workers were killed at work, with 35 of those deaths being due to a fall from height.

20 of those 35 deaths occurred within the construction industry, although falls from height also occur in other parts of the economy such as agriculture and service industries.

The last Labour government introduced the Working at Height regulations in 2005 which are widely seen as having led to a significant improvement in safety at work. The number of deaths from falls from height at work in 2017-18 was 27% lower than in 2005-6, but Margaret Greenwood pointed out that more needs to be done by the current government.

Speaking after the debate, Margaret Greenwood said:

“I was pleased to have the opportunity to respond to this parliamentary debate on behalf of the Opposition.

“Strong health and safety legislation is as important today as it has always been and the latest figures for injuries and fatalities at work show that there is still a real need for robust health and safety regulations.

“For people working at height in construction, agricultural and other areas, safety is crucial. 
 
“I raised my concern that the number of enforcement notices issued by the HSE fell in both 2016-17 and 2017-18. I also asked the minister what assessment the government has made of the impact that cuts in funding have had on the number of inspections that the HSE undertakes.

“The tragedy is that falls from height could often have been be prevented through proper enforcement of existing legislation and raising awareness of good practice.

“One part of the 2005 regulations – brought in by Labour – is that work at height should be avoided altogether wherever practical. New technology makes that possible in some circumstances, such as through the use of drones to inspect bridges or buildings for example.

“New technology also provides real opportunities for companies and organisations to provide vital training to help protect people in the workplace.”

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