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Concern over HSE officers

NEW - SHSE union fears scheme to use workplace compliance officers for site inspections may prove inadequate

HEALTH and Safety Executive union Prospect is worried that site inspections will be watered down in the wake of HSE plans to send less qualified staff on to construction jobs.

The HSE is planning a national roll-out for workplace compliance officers - who have less training than inspectors - following the completion of pilot schemes in London and the north-west.

Guidance for the officers, seen by Construction News, involves their visiting sites as part of HSE initiatives such as working at height, and also assisting inspectors in investigations.

The guidance states that they can 'manage investigations by letter' as well as attend accident sites 'to gather evidence, take measurements, identify and obtain documents and interview witnesses' They will also give advice to dutyholders on compliance with the law and respond to requests to waive the 14-day statutory period for the removal of notifiable asbestos material - only previously granted by inspectors.

The chair of Prospect's HSE branch, Steve Kay, said:'This is blurring the boundaries for us.We do not have an issue where they will be used to assist inspectors, but we fear they could be used to cover up a lack of inspection and enforcement.

'There could also be a problem with asbestos waivers as this is down to the judgement of inspectors.'

nNegotiations in the ongoing pay row between HSE and Prospect are still in deadlock after the union refused to accept the organisation's latest 1.7 per cent pay offer.

Union members are working to rule but sources said the HSE could be preparing to impose the offer on the workforce.

One source said: 'Working to rule is having an impact because inspectors are doing the bare minimum. A lot of what the HSE does for companies is chargeable and HSE will be missing the income.'