Health and Safety Measures: Ignore the haters

I appear to prefer to blog about issues which are fairly controversial and take the unpopular side of the argument, but populism is no fun! Health and Safety is one of the areas which are easy to attack and particularly are attacked in a European Context from newspapers such as the Daily Mail. They talk about how the EU is taking away “freedom” when really what is happening is they are giving workers a right to work in a place without being threatened from dying there.

I decided to have a look into the number of fatalities at work and found a freedom of information request which was made to the Health and Safety Executive surrounding the issue. I took the numbers and made a couple of graphs to show the figures. I’ve also marked on the point which the EU directive on Health and Safety at work was passed.

UK fatalities by industry

From what you can see in these, if there is any freedom that the EU appears to “hate”: it’s the freedom of your employer to kill you at work! For those who want to see the original directive it’s here.

UK work related fatalities on the whole 

 In these graphs you can definitely see a long term effect on the numbers of deaths at work, which as a trend is still decreasing. Health and Safety legislation is there to protect lives and I refuse to accept that it’s unnecessary. Reform of legislation should be directed as a consequence of the faults in the legislation (due to its failure to protect workers) and not to make life easier for employers. There is, and should be, a clear responsibility for employers to look after employees properly and clearly this approach has worked.
Importantly I’m not arguing that only this directive has meant that the number of deaths has decreased, but I am arguing that it certainly has saved lives and the modern approach to health and safety at work is a good thing.
So when the Conservatives start moaning about how the “EU red tape” on Health and Safety is a pain for employers; just mention the fact that this “red tape” has saved hundreds, if not thousands, of lives. I’d rather Health and Safety be a pain for employers than bad working conditions be a cause of death for employees.
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