We need to banish outdated attitudes to health and safety, Prospect tells the TUC

14 September 2020

Outdated attitudes that saw health and safety regulation as a burden on business must be banished if we are to adjust to the impact of the global pandemic, Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy told the Trades Union Congress (TUC) this morning.

Speaking on the opening morning of Congress 2020, Clancy used his speech to highlight the damage that some ministers approach to health and safety has had, highlighting former Prime Minister David Cameron’s remarks that health and safety regulation was a ‘monster’.

These ‘attitudes of the past’, the Prospect General Secretary argued, were damaging us in the here and now with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) understaffed and under resourced to perform the function that is expected of it due to years of real terms cuts.

He praised the work of Prospect members working for the HSE who have been trying to keep the public safe as they return to workplaces, but argued that the agency had been performing ‘regulatory gymnastics’, with the number of inspectors now lower than the number of MPs.

The prime minister may have promised ‘spot inspections’ by the HSE but Clancy claimed these were a ‘figment of his imagination’ and that the organisation lacks the capacity to carry out random physical inspections, despite this being the clear preference of workers and businesses.

Importantly, Clancy argued that the public and unions were on the same side on this issue, with polling from Prospect showing that the majority of workers want their workplaces to be properly inspected before they return to them.

He argued that unions are part of the solution to the challenge of how to keep the economy going safely as we adjust to living with the virus, just as they were in the early stages of the pandemic.

Prospect is campaigning for the government to change their approach, work with unions, provide a consistent public information campaign around workplace safety, and commit to funding the HSE so that we can have the truly world class health and safety regime that we need and that the public deserve.