The official decision to abandon official spot-check inspections in 'low risk' sectors including docks, agriculture, quarries and retail ignores the real dangers of the jobs and is driven by government-imposed cuts in the safety enforcement budget. Safety campaigners, speaking out on the 28 April, Workers' Memorial Day, warned the hands-off policy sends a signal to businesses they need not be so concerned about the safety of their staff. John Hannett, general secretary of the shopworkers' union Usdaw, said: 'Despite the fact a shopworker is assaulted, threatened or abused every minute of every day, the Tory-led Coalition thinks the shops where the majority of our members work are 'low risk' workplaces and are hell-bent on removing the protections in place to help keep them safe. Three separate reviews over the past year have concluded that the basic framework of health and safety law is fit for purpose, yet the government remains committed to an ideological attack on what it calls 'health and safety red tape'.' He added: 'What workers need is more effort and resources put into helping people comply with existing laws but instead the government offers only wholesale deregulation and cuts to the Health and Safety Executive and local authorities that advise on and enforce the law.' Three Workers' Memorial Day events in Humberside and others at ports around the country commemorated dock workers who had died in the last year. Despite a high death rate among dock workers (Risks 547), it is one of several jobs the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has rebranded as low risk, meaning docks will no longer be subject to proactive spot-check inspections. Hilda Palmer of the Hazards Campaign said: 'If the HSE aren't going out and doing spot checks - and companies know that this isn't happening - it'll be very dangerous and make the situation worse.' Workers' Memorial Day saw hundreds of events across the UK, many attracting several hundred people.
Issued: 4 May, 2012