H&S survey reveals members feel less safe now than a year ago

UNISON call for more inspection and enforcement of workplace health and safety as results of a new survey are released

woman with mask on in front of laptop, sanitising her hands

Last month, UNISON surveyed its health and safety representatives to understand more about the issues members are facing in their workplaces.

Nearly half of respondents said that their employer had not improved ventilation and air circulation in their workplace, with 36% saying that they feel less safe in the workplace now, than they did 12 months ago.

Just under a quarter of respondents reported that their COVID-19 risk assessments had not been reviewed in the last six months and one in four reported that their employers had not carried out individual risk assessments for more vulnerable workers.

Almost three-quarters of reps reported that members’ mental health had declined during the pandemic, with 45% saying that their employer had not carried out any assessment of work-related stress.

Following the results of the survey, UNISON has written to the Health and Safety Executive to share the key findings and call for further inspections and enforcement action where employers are failing in their duty to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of risk.

UNISON national officer for health and safety Kim Sunley says: “The survey paints an alarming picture of a lack of effective mitigations in the workplace and, in the absence of the government stepping up to protect workers, employers must take the initiative and ensure that they are complying with health and safety regulations.

“They need to be reviewing risk assessments and putting all reasonably practicable measures in place to protect our members. Furthermore, the Health and Safety Executive should be proactively inspecting workplaces and taking enforcement action where organisations are not doing enough to protect their employees.”

Meanwhile, on Friday, UNISON joined other unions in urging ministers to intervene to curb the rise in COVID-19 cases, calling for measures including mandatory face coverings on transport and in shops, as well as an increase to sick pay.

On the news that last week’s data showed the highest number of deaths within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test since March, Ms Sunley said: “It should start alarm bells ringing across the Westminster government, our public health bodies and workplace safety regulator.

“We are entering the critical winter period in terms of NHS capacity, flu season and waning immunity amongst the working age population. The government has to act now to halt this perfect storm.”

The full survey and recommendations can be accessed here: Health and safety reps survey