Report claims recent trend towards `light touch' regulation has in effect `decriminalised' death and injury at work
At least twice as many people die from fatal injuries at work than are victims of homicide, suggested a new report from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies.
The report found that in England and Wales at least 1,300 people died as a result of fatal occupational injuries in 2005-06, compared with 765 homicide victims.
According to the report the recent trend towards `light touch' regulation of business has in effect `decriminalised' death and injury at work. Serious incidents are significantly underreported, the authors claimed. A reduction in the capacity of bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive to inspect business and take appropriate action has led to a situation where the vast majority of the most serious injuries, as well as many deaths, are not subject to any form of investigation.
Professor Steve Tombs, a report author, said `Violent street crime consumes enormous political, media and academic energy. But, as hundreds of thousands of workers and their families know, it is the violence associated with working for a living that is most likely to kill and hospitalise.'
“This research raises important questions about what is currently defined as crime, who gets to decide, and how we as a society deal with harmful and dangerous practices.
Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies
Dr David Whyte, a report author, said: `HSE enforcement notices fell by 40% and prosecutions fell by 49% between 2001/02 and 2005/06. The collapse in HSE enforcement and prosecution sends a clear message that the government is prepared to let employers kill and maim with impunity.'
Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, said: `Safety crimes are worthy of greater acknowledgement given the harm caused and the contexts within which they occur. This research raises important questions about what is currently defined as crime, who gets to decide, and how we as a society deal with harmful and dangerous practices.'
John McLaren-Stewart, chief executive of Alliance Corporate Risk Management, took a different tack: “It is clear from what we are seeing in the industry that there are still employers who are not taking enough precautions, but we must not generalise and assume that the majority of bosses and business owners are not taking their responsibilities seriously.
McLaren Stewart said that the arrival of new manslaughter laws in the early part of the year do seem to have woken a number of bosses up to the implication of not protecting welfare and safety of their staff.