The Enterprise Act and workplace health and safety

Work health & safety

Writing in the Scotland on Sunday newspaper (14th July), Euan McColm discussed workplace health and safety regulation 25 years after the Piper Alpha disaster and highlighted the consequences of provisions in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act, which comes into force on October 1st. 

This important column was published in the Scotland on Sunday newspaper and online on Sunday 14th July.

By removing statutory liability of employers for workplace accidents, the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act will take health and safety law in the UK back to where it was during Victorian times, a regressive move that could lead to lower standards of health and safety in workplaces throughout the country. Health and Safety Executive statistics over the last twenty years show why robust workplace safety regulation and employer responsibility matters. In 1991/92 there were 368 fatal accidents in UK workplaces, a figure which fell to 148 across the UK in 2012/13. 

Figures published recently by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that 22 people were killed at work in Scotland between April 2012 and March 2013.  This figure, which represents a rate of 0.9 deaths per 100,000 workers, was an increase from the 19 deaths recorded in 2011/12.   Both the death rate per 100,000 workers and the number of fatalities recorded last year were higher in Scotland than in England or Wales.

Further reading

The full study by Stirling University Professor of Occupational Health Policy Research Rory O’Neill, which highlighted a highlighted a worrying decline in inspections by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the watchdog body charged with improving safety and reducing work-related injuries and fatalities across the UK, and which is discussed in the Scotland on Sunday column, can be read here.