Labour Research April 2009

Health & Safety Matters

Safety at work is a casualty

Some firms are reducing the priority given to workplace health and safety now the economy is in recession.

A National Accident Helpline survey found that almost two-thirds (62%) of employees believed their employer has placed less emphasis on health and safety since the recession hit the UK.

The helpline argued that cutting of health and safety budgets constitutes a false economy, pointing out that it may seem cheaper to turn the thermostat down a few notches, but not when it means staff are off sick with ill-health as a result.

More evidence came from a workplace survey by the personal protective equipment (PPE) maker 3M.

Its report, Safety in Construction, based on interviews held late last year with workers and health and safety managers, found that one in 10 (8%) of workers in England claimed to have been given cheaper PPE because of the downturn; in Scotland the figure was one in five (20%).

The survey also found that only around half of all workers (56%) got regular PPE training, even though health and safety managers thought that training was the most important method of ensuring workers comply with PPE rules. Only 18% of managers said that PPE was always worn — although three-quarters (78%) of workers said they always wore it.

However, managers of the Olympic sites in London reported that they have 100% training and 100% enforcement on PPE, through a “red card” system of zero tolerance.