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Embargoed Wednesday, 00.01 am, 15 Sept 2004

Government’s Safety Policies “inconsistent with research” new report concludes

Central planks of the Government/Health and Safety Commission's current health and safety strategy are "inconsistent with the national and international published research on the most effective strategies to improve worker and public safety”, says a report published today by the Centre for Corporate Accountability.

The report, "Making Companies Safe: What Works?" raises serious questions about the Government’s claimed commitment to pursue policies that are ‘evidence-based’.

The 120 page report is being published on the morning of the TUC debate on health and safety, Wednesday, 15 September 2004. It was published with the support of the trade union Amicus,

Last year 235 workers and 95 members of the public died in premises regulated by either the Health and Safety Executive or Local Authorities. 29,500 workers suffered major injuries.

The purpose of the report was to consider whether published research supported two recent significant shifts in Government/HSC policy:

a decision not to impose legal safety duties upon company directors, and to rely instead on voluntary guidance to persuade directors to change the way they deal with safety;
a new strategy, in relation to existing health and safety law, of moving away from using formal enforcement mechanisms (like inspections, investigations and prosecutions) to “new ways of securing compliance voluntarily”

David Bergman, Director of the CCA stated:

“the report makes clear that legislation on directors duties would have significant benefits for health and safety. It also shows that rather than reducing current levels of inspection and enforcement, as HSE are planning, standards of health and safety would be improved by increasing the number of inspections, investigations, and prosecutions that the HSE undertakes. We hope that the Government and the HSE will read this report and, in light of the national and international research, reconsider some of its recent policy decisions.”

In relation to the first shift, the report states that:

“All the major reviews of the international literature conclude that the most important driver of management action to improve occupational health and safety performance is legal regulation. This finding is mirrored in the UK research, where the need to comply with the law was the most commonly cited reason for health and safety initiatives amongst all sizes of organisations. .. [W]holly voluntary approaches – in the form of voluntary codes of conduct for example – are largely ineffective in bringing about improved standards of health or safety performance.”

In relation to the second shift, the report states:

“Recent HSE proposals to shift resources away from front-line inspection, investigation and enforcement activity are contrary to the evidence which strongly suggests that HSE could have a significantly greater impact by increasing inspection and enforcement activity.”

The report was researched and written by Dr Courtney Davis, CCA’s Deputy Director who is also a research fellow at the University of Sussex.

The report's conclusions reflects those of the Select Committee on Work and Pensions which stated that the HSE should double the number of inspectors and increase its enforcement activities.

Funding for the research and writing of this report came from the Joseph Rowntrees Charitable Trust.

Read the report's Introduction
Read the report's Main Finding
Download the whole report (PDF)

AMICUS’s press release is available from its press office in Brighton, see below

Notes to Editors

1. The HSC/HSE new strategy on health and safety was published earlier this year. It is called: A Strategy for workplace health and safety in Great Britain to 2010 and beyond. It can be downloaded by clicking here. Another document that sets out HSC/E's new thinking is contained in a document written by the HSE's Deputy Director-General, Justin McCracken. It can be downloaded by clicking here.
2. To read about the issue of directors Duties, click here
3. To read what the recent Select Committee on Work and Pensions said about the HSC/HSE, click here
4. The Centre for Corporate Accountability is a not-for-profit organisation concerned with worker and public safety. It runs a Work-Related Death Advice Service for families bereaved from work-related deaths on investigation and prosecution issues following the death. The CCA also undertakes research on law enforcement and corporate accountability issues. It has charitable status.

CCA - Press Inquiries  
David Bergman 020 7 490 4494 (office)
AMICUS Press Inquiries  

Catherine Bithell

07958 473224





For Further Information
Centre for Corporate Accountability 0207 490 4494




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Page last updated on September 15, 2004