Issue date
04 May 2012

A government safety strategy 'built on myth and dogma' is making the UK's workplaces more deadly, unions have warned. Unite accused the government of hiding behind poor statistics, with workplace deaths 'underestimated by more than 800 per cent' in the official toll. Unite's general secretary Len McCluskey, speaking ahead of Workers' Memorial Day on 28 April, said: 'The government is hell bent on reducing health and safety regulations, and standards. It will lead to fewer inspections, less enforcement and more deaths, injuries and ill-health at work. The government's strategy, built on myth and dogma, puts workers at greater risk.' The union estimates up to 50,000 people could die each year as a result of work-related injuries and diseases. UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis, calling on the government 'to think again about its damaging cuts,' said: 'The government is wrong in believing that health and safety rules are a burden on business. Cut the funding to develop and enforce these rules and business and the taxpayer will face the bigger burden of an injured and unwell workforce.' A statement from PCS, one of the main unions representing Health and Safety Executive (HSE) staff, noted: 'We believe that health and safety hurts nobody. In fact, businesses responded to the government's Red Tape Challenge by saying that they wanted more advice, not less. However, the government ignored the results and the HSE remains under threat.' Chris Keates, general secretary of the teaching union NASUWT, said 'the Coalition wheels out apocryphal stories about health and safety for the amusement and entertainment of the public.' She said the government's 'underlying, sinister intention' was to use the stories as 'decoys' to excuse a 'disgraceful stripping away' of critically important workplace safety rules. CWU general secretary Billy Hayes, speaking at a 28 April event in Liverpool questioned 'how many in the Cabinet of millionaires know a relative, friend, workmate, or pensioner, who worked with asbestos?' Asbestos cancers kill several thousand people each year in the UK.

Unite news release. UNISON news release. UNISON Scotland news release. PCS news release. NASUWT news release. CWU news release.

TUC 28 April Workers' Memorial Day events listing. ITUC/Hazards Workers' Memorial Day webpages, including a worldwide list of events and resources and the ITUC/Hazards 28 April facebook page.