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LEAK INDICATES ‘SPOT INSPECTIONS’ TO REDUCE

BBC programme claims HSE propose third drop in unannounced visits 

In a File on 4 programme yesterday (8 Mar) the BBC claim that HSE CEO Geoffrey Podger has proposed a reduction in “proactive inspections”.  A leaked letter obtained by the File on 4 programme is said to outline plans to reduce HSE inspections by a third.

The letter is claimed to be blueprint of proposed wide-ranging changes to HSE operations in the light of a 35% cut to its government grant. It recommends a departure from face-to-face contact in favour of web-based and other initiatives.

Three high hazard sectors including nuclear, offshore and chemical industries will be ring-fenced and some other industries (not identified) will remain subject to unannounced inspections. The letter is also said to state that proactive inspections will be “entirely withdrawn” from some workplaces.

Evidence on ‘soft interventions’ is weaker

Dr Courtney Davis of Sussex University reviewed the worldwide evidence for the value of proactive inspections, and believes any reduction is likely to have a detrimental impact on worker safety.

“robust studies show that inspection plus enforcement are associated with a decline in injury rates of 22% for the following three years. The evidence relating to new, soft interventions is much weaker, and almost non-existent. It doesn’t appear to be the case that these alternatives are effective in improving compliance with health and safety law or injury rates.”

An HSE spokesperson said:

“We regularly consult with partner organisations on future ways of working. Discussions do not constitute a final decision so it would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this time.

The emphasis should be on outcomes – the incidence of accidents and ill-health – rather than the number of particular types of inputs by the regulator.

The estimated number of working days lost due to workplace injuries and ill-health is now the lowest it has ever been in Britain.”

Comment

The chance of a spot visit  from an HSE inpector will probably reduce across all construction projects. It is unlikely that the sector as whole will to be placed in a ‘no proactive inspection category’. 

However, the reductions in funding may prompt HSE to revisit ideas of  ‘earned autonomy’ for companies and specific construction sectors where health safety performance is exemplary.

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