From education to employment

But union warns it could be tip of the iceberg

Government spending restrictions will result in over 350 jobs being culled, Union bosses warned yesterday after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) announced measures to reduce staff numbers.

Geoffrey Podger, HSE Chief Executive, sent a notice out to staff advising them that in order to remain within the budget allocated to them by the government, between 250 and 350 jobs will have to be shed by 2008.

However, Prospect, the union representing 1,750 scientists, inspectors and other professionals in the HSE, have criticised the announcement, claiming that the 350 mentioned may only be the beginning. Prospect HSE branch chair Stephen Kay said: “While we welcome the commitment to try to achieve these losses through natural wastage and voluntary redundancies, any reduction in HSE staff numbers will inevitably impact on the drive to improve safety in UK workplaces”.

HSE’s parent body, the Department for Work and Pensions, has outlined a 5% target for reduction. And the announcement is further problematic as it comes on the back of a recent report claiming that the drive to remove hands-on inspection in UK workplaces has paralleled a rise in the number of fatalities and major injury rates recorded across the country.

Steven Kay clearly understands the implications of the job losses: “It will result in a drop in the number of prosecutions and inspections undertaken and could see a further restriction of the accident selection criteria used to prompt an investigation as HSE tries to maintain the 60:40 balance it seeks to strike between preventive and reactive work. Less investigations will mean workers that suffer horrendous injuries will not get justice”.

And the proposed job losses would likely affect the executive’s drive towards education and preventative advice, announced in 2003, in a strategic move away from inspection and enforcement.

Prospect is calling for government intervention to ease the financial crisis currently crippling the HSE.

Vijay Pattni

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