Higher risk of workplace injury as accidents not investigated

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67 accidents in the workplace were not investigated in Scotland last year

HUNDREDS of injuries in the workplace are not being investigated because of Government cuts.

And a senior official has admitted that workers could now be put more at risk.

Injuries including blindness, poisoning and even workings having limbs cut off have not been investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Giving evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster last week, HSE director of Field Operations David Ashton admitted that nationwide 300 major injuries had not been looked into because the organisation was too busy.

A total of 67 of those took place in Scotland.

He added that if the HSE doesn’t investigate major injuries then bosses will be put off from maintaining safety standards.

Mike Macdonald, of trade union Prospect, which represents the HSE inspectors, said:

“This is a national scandal. It’s not acceptable to have such a high level of major injuries not being investigated.

“Most people would feel that in a civilised society if someone loses a finger, for example, never mind a whole limb, the state will investigate.

“If the Government is prepared to tolerate people being injured at work with impunity what sort of signal does that send out to employers? “

The problem is also set to get worse with the HSE facing 35 per cent budget cuts.

And Prospect has warned that the cuts which result in fewer health and safety inspections will lead to more lax safety regimes and more workplace fatalities.

Last year 15 Scots died at work, the majority on farms.

Mr Macdonald added:

“The Government has just said that there will be a 35 percent cut and if people are injured as a result it’s a price worth paying.

“They are willing to protect some areas of spending like education and health but the message sent out is that stopping employers from killing their staff isn’t worth it. It’s inexcusable. “

Argyll and Bute MP Alan Reid, who conducted last week’s evidence session as vice chairman of the committee, said:

“The HSE have got their priorities wrong.

“They’ve said they’ll change those priorities and carry out more investigations rather than proactive investigations of low risk premises in future but it remains to be seen if they do and it’s obviously concerning that they’ve got things so wrong in the past. “

A spokesman for the Health and Safety Executive said:

“The decision to investigate a specific incident or complaint is based on published criteria, and every incident involving a fatality is always investigated.

“It is not possible to investigate every incident reported to us, of which there are more than 120,000 a year.

“When a decision is made not to take forward a full investigation, this may be because there is minimal risk to other workers or members of the public or little potential for a successful prosecution.

“We always prioritise and look to devote the resources available to investigate the more serious circumstances.

“Employers who do not take the protections of their employees or those affected by their work activities seriously will continue to face enforcement action from HSE. “

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