Unite, the UK’s principal construction union, is seeking urgent meetings with ministers and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after a freedom of information (FOI) request revealed a sharp drop in construction inspections.
The FOI response from the HSE revealed that the number of unannounced inspections occurring in the construction industry fell by 14 per cent in just 12 months. In 2015/16 there were 9,219 inspections and this reduced to 7,912 in 2016/17. The reduction in inspections follows a trend as there was also a 4 per cent decrease in the previous 12 months.
Construction is the most dangerous industry in the UK. Several academic studies have revealed a clear correlation between the frequency of inspections and compliance with safety laws.
Since receiving the FOI response Unite has written to the HSE and David Gauke the new work and pensions secretary, seeking meetings.
Unite are seeking information from Mr Gauke about the government’s future plans for the HSE and safety laws. The HSE’s funding is set to be cut by 46 per cent, compared to what the organisation received in 2010, by 2020. Successive Conservative governments have scrapped safety laws and there are concerns this could increase as part of the Brexit process.
Unite are seeking a meeting with the HSE to ascertain exactly what caused the latest decrease in construction inspections and what strategies are being put in place to reverse the trend.
The regional breakdown also revealed marked differences in inspection activity with just one region recording an increase in the past 12 months. The figures were as follows, Eastern -22 per cent, East Midlands -26 per cent, London -14 per cent, North East -39 per cent, North West -5 per cent, Scotland +9 per cent, South East -8 per cent, South West -32 per cent, Wales -15 per cent, West Midlands -13 per cent, Yorkshire -4 per cent.
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail, said: “These figures are alarming as they demonstrate a huge decrease in vital lifesaving inspections. Sadly there remain far too many employers who are all too willing to cut safety regulations and it is only the genuine prospect of an unannounced inspection which keeps them in check.
“The government has slashed funding for the HSE and it is clear that it is increasingly struggling to make ends meet. With a new secretary of state in place Unite and our members need to know what plans he has for the HSE and safety laws.
“We also need answers from the HSE about whether they are taking steps to redress this fall in inspections and whether there are specific reasons for these reductions.”
For more information please contact Unite communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235.
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.