New figures reveal employers have never enjoyed such freedom to neglect safety rules.
In the three years from 2002/03, inspections by the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Field Operations Division (FOD) dropped off by over 25 percent, down from over 74,000 to 55,000 last year.
Total “regulatory contacts” by the FOD inspectors – which includes inspections, investigations, enforcement action, seminars, workshops and advisory activities – have also plummeted, with the 2004/05 figure of 150,763 down by 20 percent over the three years.
Firms are now less likely to be inspected, less likely to be prosecuted, less likely to be convicted and less likely to receive an HSE notice requiring safety improvements.
The number of HSE prosecutions fell from 960 in 2003/04 to 712 in 2004/05. Convictions for safety offences fell from 887 to 673. And the total number of prohibition or improvement notices fell from 11,295 to 8,445.
Over 30,000 fatal or major injuries were reported to the HSE in 2004/05. In that year the HSE took just 712 prosecutions. Even if you discount the far higher numbers made ill or killed by work-related diseases, this amounts to less than a 1 in 40 chance of a prosecution after a death or major injury at work.
Fewer inspections mean less justice.