Resources question mark hangs over HSE health strategy

Resources question mark hangs over HSE health strategy

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TUC Risks

The Health and Safety Executive’s fledgling health and work strategy has been welcomed by the TUC, but the union body says questions remain over the impact of swingeing funding cuts on the watchdog’s ability to deliver. 

Commenting on progress on HSE’s December 2016 strategy, which prioritises action on stress, musculoskeletal disorders and occupational lung diseases, TUC head of safety Hugh Robertson said: “At the TUC we have argued strongly for an evidence-based approach from the HSE in terms of the areas it addresses both through advice guidance and support, and also through enforcement, and that means putting the emphasis on the risks that are affecting workers the most such as cancers, stress and back or limb pain.

Well, it now looks as through the HSE is taking this on board.” He said moves like the joint HSE/TUC stress guide for safety reps launched last month (Risks 785) were a positive step, as was work with teaching unions to develop pilots for stress interventions in schools.

But the TUC safety specialist, who had earlier criticised the omission from HSE’s 2016/17 business plan of any commitment to new regulations on the prevention of these health conditions (Risks 745), added: “The strategy is still at an early stage and it is unclear what resources will be available to fund it but the HSE have already started working with unions at a national and local level on some issues.”

He warned: “All the evidence is that the cuts in funding to the HSE and changes to the inspection regime that we have seen over the last seven years have disproportionately impacted on the health agenda.”

HSE inspectors’ union Prospect has also welcomed the new focus on health, but like the TUC has warned the regulator “needs the people and resources to ensure that risks to people's health and safety from work activities are properly controlled. Yet governments have cut HSE’s funding by more than 40 per cent since 2010” (Risks 782).

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