Unite, the UK’s largest union, is calling on the HSE’s board to halt plans to close vital health and safety committees and to replace the current system with “experts” such as academics.
According to papers produced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), it is considering closing down a number of committees where it gets advice from a range of people including unions and employers. Two of these committees deal with toxic substances and have been instrumental in developing the HSE’s policy on a range of hazards, including asbestos.
One committee deals with chemicals called WATCH has already been told it has been disbanded, while according to reports from the HSE, its parent body the Advisory Committee on Toxic Substances, also appears to be under threat in its current form.
It appears that the plan is to replace the current system with “experts” such as academics. But unions and employers need to be on these bodies because they act as brokers for the experience of their members in the workplace. Often unions identify issues years before the academics can show conclusively there is a health problem.
It is because of the knowledge of the workplace that employer and union representatives are so valuable. Unite believes the most effective bodies dealing with occupational health are based on the ‘tripartite’ union/employer/government model.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “It seems the HSE is trying to eliminate trade unions from giving advice on workplace ill health. According to HSE, involving the workforce is a key component of good health and safety – maybe they only say that when it suits them.
“Trade unions know about work, and they know all too much about work related ill health. It is trade union members and other workers who are killed, injured or made ill by work. Trade unions must continue to have a key role in advising HSE about how to prevent those deaths, injuries and diseases.
“I call on the HSE to halt these plans and ensure trade unions are included in all talks concerning the health and safety of workers.”
For further information contact Bud Hudspith on 07881 588917 or Ashraf Choudhury in the Unite Press Office on 020 3371 2061 or 07980 224761.
Notes to editors:
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.