Monday, August 30, 2004

Britain's Health and Safety Executive: Using Bush's OSHA as an Example?

It seems that American workers are not the only ones in the industrialized western countries to be let down by their government that is supposed to being protecting their right to a safe workplace, according to Hazards editor Rory O'Neill and Andrew Watterson, PhD in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health.

The British Health and Safety Commission(HSC)recently produced a report showing that "around three fourths of the 43 million working days lost each year in the United Kingdom to workplace disease and accident are due to 'occupational disease.'"

Meanwhile, the British the Health and Safety Executive(HSE) -- Britain's OSHA -- has announced the elimination of its medical director position and "is moving by stealth more and more away from a role as enforcer to a role as advisor." Sound familiar?
The figure cited above indicates that the HSE falls far short of its ambition to cut occupationally-caused and -related disease incidences significantly. The government has additionally failed so far to act fully on corporate manslaughter legislation, and the fines and enforcement of occupational health and safety law against recalcitrant employers still all too often remain woefully inadequate.3 Who the influential voices are in U.K. occupational health and safety under New Labour would appear to be quite clear. They are not the vulnerable employees, nor are they overloaded scientific civil servants within the HSC and the HSE. They most certainly are not the trade unions and employee-support organizations. They are exactly those employer groups that have failed to deliver substantial improvements in occupational health and basic safety records in the worst sectors of industry.