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Derek Maylor, Chairperson

Last month, on the 15th November, an amendment tabled by Labour that would have increased MPs control of changes to workers’ protection and health and safety law was rejected.

In an affront to democracy and a direct threat to workers safety the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill will transpose all EU law into the UK statute book, repealing the European Communities Act in the process, and give ministers the power to adapt and remove laws that they say are not of importance.

This gives ministers sweeping powers to alter health and safety laws without any parliamentary scrutiny.

Following the resignation of Priti Patel after her unauthorised meetings with Israeli officials and politicians, the Government appointed Sarah Newton as safety minister (replacing Penny Mordaunt), she is now minister of state for disabled people, health and work at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). 

The role covers the HSE and the Office for Nuclear Regulation overseeing the government’s work and health strategy. Interestingly her previous roles covered prevention of modern slavery but Newton did back the government’s legislative reforms of health and safety and was in favour of the Deregulation Act’s exemption of self-employed people from health and safety law.

The recent 30th anniversary of the Kings Cross fire was on 18th. November when 31 people died over a hundred were injured. Desmond Fennell chaired the inquiry that followed which was scathing of the government’s approach to public safety and made over 150 recommendations, however less than half were implemented and wooden escalators were still operational at Greenford station until 2014. One of the problems at Kings Cross was that although there were sprinklers staff were not trained to use them as it was the responsibility of another department.

This is still an issue in companies who are encouraged by government to micro manage every department, each standing alone in a silo, each having to make a profit; each passing responsibilities along rather than picking up safety and, more commonly, health issues.

Caroline Lucas MP tabled an EDM noting that on 5th December it was the 65th anniversary of the lethal Great Smog of London which killed 4,000 people.

Despite the obvious advances in decreasing air pollution since then, by 5th December this year it is estimated that 8,700 people will have died prematurely in London since the start of the year due to major air pollutants.

The Government should stop passing responsibility for tackling air pollution down to Local Authorities and take immediate action centrally to ensure nationwide compliance with air quality standards.

As always, and in conclusion; we aim to provide the best advice and representation for our members and to:

*Ensure a safe working environment
*Promote occupational health
*Help members raise safety concerns
*Advance industry best practice
*Provide representation at national meetings
*Raise issues with other safety or government bodies

Our greatest assets are our Union Safety Representatives and we fully support them in their work.

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