De-Regulation and Attacks on Health and Safety

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2013 Local Government Service Group Conference
19 February 2013

This Conference notes the risk to the lives, health and welfare of local government staff posed by Government’s attacks on the health and safety regulatory system. These attacks include:

1)The cuts in local authority inspection – by 86% since 2009/10

2) The dumbing down of Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advice, including its guidance on local authority inspections

3) Ill thought-out proposals which will make it harder for workers to get compensation for workplace injuries

This Conference refutes the argument of the government and the HSE that local government workplaces are “low risk” and therefore do not require proactive inspections. Research has shown that the majority of deaths at work occur in low risk workplaces.

This Conference notes the excellent work of the UNISON Schools Committee, in conjunction with the Asbestos-in Schools Parliamentary Group, in highlighting the dangers of asbestos in schools and how the deregulation of schools has put staff and pupils at risk of the most deadly of occupational cancers, mesothelioma. However Conference also notes that the HSE defines schools as “low risk” not worthy of the attention of local authority or HSE inspectors.

The cuts in Environmental Health Services not only put at risk local government jobs, but also the health of the public, as cuts in inspections of food businesses are put into effect.

Conference notes the re-launch of UNISON’s Safety-in-Numbers campaign with the aim of increasing the number of Safety Reps. Health and safety provides UNISON with campaigning, organising and recruitment opportunities. Health and Safety Reps with their protected functions and facility time are ideally placed to play an active role in fighting not only the assault on health and safety, but also the government’s wider attacks on local government services and trade union facility time. Local Government Safety Reps have an opportunity to fill the vacuum created by cuts in HSE and Local Authority inspections by campaigning on and highlighting health and safety concerns in their workplaces.

This Conference calls on the Local Government Service Group Executive, working with the UNISON Health and Safety Unit and National Health and Safety Committee, to:

a)Support the Safety-in-Numbers campaign and recruit more Safety Reps in the local government sector;

b) Work with other trade unions, charities and pressure groups such as “Asbestos in Schools”, to highlight the dangers of government deregulation and attacks on local government health and safety;

c) Use guides factsheets, bulletins, the website, Twitter and other forms of social media to equip safety reps working in the Local Government sector with the tools to campaign for and negotiate good healthy and safe working conditions for their members.