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HSE raises concerns over safety cuts as five-year strategy is released

More than one quarter of business leaders say their company will face pressure to cut health and safety spending this year, according to new research by the Health and Safety Executive which will today launch its new five-year strategy.

The HSE will call on senior managers to show more leadership on safety issues, saying that would be the “most effective way” to improve the country’s death toll.

It has asked firms to sign up to its Be Part of the Solution strategy – the key emphasis of which is industry involvement.

The safety regulator has also pleaded with firms not to reduce spending despite the tumultuous economic climate, saying any cuts “could be bad for business [as] nearly eight in ten business leaders acknowledge that good health and safety standards are beneficial”.

The HSE said: “In part this is because the cost of preventing accidents is almost always less than the costs associated with an accident once it happens.”

It described its new strategy as “a common sense approach to risk at work”. 

Goals of the strategy include greater collaboration between the HSE and local authorities, building competence of those charged with delivering health and safety in workplaces and customising support available for small businesses.

Secretary of state for work and pensions, James Purnell – who is the keynote speaker at the launch in London – said: “There are too many clichés about the role of ‘health and safety’ in our society.

“The new HSE strategy recognises that a significant challenge now faces everyone with a stake in health and safety. We need to do everything we can to drive down the toll of death and injury.”

According to new HSE figures, compiled by Construction News, the death toll in the construction sector plummeted by more than 20 per cent in the year to the end of March, with about 55 workers and two members of the public killed in construction-related incidents.

There were 72 workers and three members of the public killed in construction incidents in 2007/08.

The early data has been welcomed by safety lobbyists, though most have attributed the fall to the “huge reduction” in building activity during the economic downturn.