Join in the debate - HSE Risk Debate Forums
The Health and Safety Executive has set up an online forum to discuss topics associated with risk aversion. You can join in with one of the existing discussions or start your own by clicking on the link or going to http://riskdebate.hse.gov.uk/ui/inovem.ti/group/riskdebate. We reproduce below one thoughtful contribution by Mick Holder from Hazards Campaign.
"It seems to me much of this debate has been fed by recent debates about so called "compensation culture", out-of school trips and the political drive for a further deregulated HSE with the backing of business.
"The compo-culture argument in relation to worker claims for personal injury was recently comprehensively blown out of the water by Hazards magazine and the TUC. It?s just that while the evidence shows fewer than one in 10 people made ill or injured by their work ever receive any compensation from the state or from their employers - the myth still lingers that employers are having to stump up billions over "bonkers conkers" cases. The reporting of this issue in the media reflects the corrupt anti-EU and "political correctness gone mad" stories that we endure in our press that eventually prove to be half truths or outright lies planted there by politically motivated editors.
"The out of school trips issue has fed the risk aversion argument because schools are reportedly spoiling our children?s lives by stopping taking kids on expeditions for fear of being sued. The real story is that over recent years there have been several children who have died on trips in circumstances that were predictable and preventable. And it?s not just schools, even the Scouts have been held responsible for the loss of childrens' lives and in one case I remember the CPS being involved in investigating for possible manslaughter charges. Out of these cases has come evidence that shows a failure to do proper risk assessments, to organise and prepare properly and for full and proper supervision on the trip have been major contributors. Not risk aversion, just being risk unprepared and we should not forget this is after all a legal requirement.
"It is no wonder that teaching unions have taken a strong stance on this when their members have been and could be likely for prosecution when it all goes wrong in an industry that is massively under-resourced yet wanting to do right by the children.
"Which brings me to the issue of a de-regulated HSE. This whole debate on so called "risk aversion" is being used as fuel by de-regulators in government, the HSC, the HSE and business who have the neo-conservative belief that unregulated business will act responsibly and that reputation with customers and investors is more important to behaviour than regulation and enforcement. Over the years much evidence has been produced to show this to be the opposite of what happens and we only have to look to the USA to see what is happening with an emasculated OSHA and EPA to see where these arguments are taking us.
"We lose sight of the fact that even HSE say the cost of accidents, injury and ill-health to the UK is at the last count, I seem to recall, £30billion and this is caused in the main by employers not doing what is required of them by law. That makes them criminals. Not our pals or partners but criminals. The moves to de-criminalise workplace health and safety crimes by de-regulation are wrong, unjust and criminal in themselves.
"What could change all this ? The debate has been had so many times and the answer, is, was and will be:
* A properly funded HSE and LA enforcement regime.
* More inspectors.
* A tougher enforcement policy.
* Tougher sentences in the courts.
* Negligence in major incident case to be punishable by imprisonment.
* More rights for workers to defend themselves against the worst excesses of employers.
"If these issues were addressed then the UK would go some way to preventing the problems that we are supposedly so averse to right now. And, as ever, the debate should be always start with prevention."
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