Last month, Prospect blew the whistle on the HSE for replacing physical spot checks by their inspectors, with telephone consultations instead. Whilst Covid-19 may well be the reason for this having been done, the fact is that the resources of the HSE has been stretched to the point of snapping, with little appearing to be done not only by the Government, but also by the head of the HSE, Sarah Albon.
Now a new YouGov poll commissioned by Prospect shows that the vast majority of UK workers want the Health and Safety Executive to carry out physical spot inspections to check employers are sticking to social distancing and other safety plans.
Prospect, which represents HSE staff, recently exposed how reliant the HSE had become on telephone checks to ensure safe working.
In this new poll 67% of the public said they thought random in person checks should be carried out, with just 9% saying phone checks would be good enough and 11% saying employers should be allowed to police themselves. Just 30% of workers said they would feel comfortable going into work if only telephone checks were taking place.
Worryingly, only half (53%) of respondents were confident that someone in the workplace would contact the HSE if Covid-19 health and safety procedures were not being followed, further demonstrating the reliance on pro-active spot checks to achieve compliance with the new rules.
The Prime Minister has announced that an extra £14m will be made available for the HSE to apply for, however given the time taken to train new inspectors this is likely to be spent on increasing call-centre capacity.
Prospect has written to the Prime Minister regarding his promise of spot-inspections made in May.
Although HSE inspectors continue to attend serious incidents such as workplace deaths, alerts to an ongoing risk of serious personal injury and instances where reported safe-distancing concerns are not addressed through a remote inspection it is clear that spot-inspections of the type suggested by the PM are not happening.
In our letter we highlight decade long funding cuts and their impact on what HSE is able to do in normal circumstances never mind in the midst of a national pandemic.
Mike Clancy, general secretary of Prospect said:
“It is clear that workers want what they thought that the Prime Minister had promised them- physical spot checks to make sure that employers are following the rules and keeping them safe. But after a decade of spending reductions the Health and Safety Executive will find it very hard to carry out these checks and give workers the reassurance they deserve.
While there are millions of businesses in this country the HSE has only been given the resources to check up on a tiny fraction of them.
The extra money that the Prime Minister’s promised restores less than less than 10% of the £145m that has been cut in real terms.
The right first step would be to restore everything that has been cut in the last decade.
If we can’t get this right the country faces a double blow from prolonged economic damage caused by workers feeling unsure about returning to workplaces, and the risk of localised coronavirus hot spots around workplaces that are not following the rules.”
Source: Prospect / unionsafety
See also: Majority Of HSE Spot Checks Most Likely To Be Done By Phone