Socialist Worker

Deadly reality of health and safety cuts

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2236

Dan Hazelton, his brother Tom, Peter Johnson, and Adam Taylor died at work last week in Great Yarmouth.

The men, from Bury St Edmunds, were working four metres below ground when the steel structure they were building collapsed on top of them.

They were crushed by tonnes of metal.

They were working at Claxton Engineering Services Limited who make drills for off-shore oil rigs. One hundred people work at its main base in Great Yarmouth.

The construction work was to put in place foundations for a new building that received planning permission in December.

It is unclear whether the site had received any health and safety inspections prior to the accident.

Richard Howitt, Labour MEP for the area, said the tragedy was “a deadly example of why plans to lift health and safety protection should be halted”.


He is right—the government plans to cut the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) budget by more than a third. Some 700 jobs are set to go.

It is attacking a service that has already been pared back.

HSE has suffered cuts every year since 2003, losing 940 staff in the process—almost 25 percent of the total.

The number of HSE inspections has nose-dived.

A decade ago, an HSE inspector was likely to turn up at your workplace once every 8.4 years.

Last year that had dropped to once every 38.5 years.

The number of fatal injuries to workers has fallen more than 70 percent, from 651 in 1974, when the Health and Safety at Work Act became law, to 180 in 2008-9.

But work is still a very dangerous place.

Every year up to 50,000 die due to illnesses developed because of their work.

The consequences of Tory attacks on the HSE are clear and not just in Great Yarmouth.

On 11 January Michael Whinfrey from Rotherham died after an explosion at the Sterecycle recycling factory.

On 19 January David Barker from Selkirk, died after been struck by a falling metal partition at the Scottish Borders Abattoir in Galashiels.

Armand Meguer, an electrical engineer died on Tuesday of last week when he fell from a mobile phone mast site in Bromley.

Behind the talk of cutting red tape lies what might not be the most high profile cuts, but what may be the most deadly.

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Article information

Tue 25 Jan 2011, 18:35 GMT
Issue No. 2236
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