The TUC has expressed concerns that the scaling back of enforcement inspections by the Government will impact badly on the way businesses will manage health and safety. The HSE has been targeted by Government to complete 22,000 inspections per annum and are expected to hit target but not go over the target.
The TUC has based this assumption on the findings of a survey published recently which identified that 45% of responding businesses had never received a visit from a regulatory inspector and a further 10% said they had not had a visit for more than 3 years.
So will this mean that businesses will be less inclined to make safety improvements because they know the chance of having an inspection is low? The TUC certainly believe so but from our own client base we are not so convinced. Many businesses have other pressures to consider; such as from large clients and from the accreditation schemes that tend to ask a lot of searching questions. Agreed, this is not the same as an inspectors visit but it does keep management focused on health & safety.
Probably the biggest concern is the threat of negative publicity which often does far more damage to a business than the fines in court.
This leads us to the latest statistics which show that the HSE prosecuted 551 cases in the last 12 months and secured 506 convictions; this is the highest number over the last 5 years. However it also shows that the HSE and Local Authorities issued 14,525 enforcement notices a 21% fall on the previous year; based on this, it’s clear that less inspections means less notices.
Certainly we know from our local inspectors that carrying out inspections is less of a priority; however we understand that most businesses targeted will likely receive a notice of some kind and many are receiving prohibition notices.
It will be interesting to watch which path businesses decide to take in the future. Agreed, there is a cost to getting it right but we think the cost of being caught doing it wrong is far higher and has the potential of long standing repercussions.