POLITICIANS have called on the Government to double the number of health and safety inspectors in a hard-hitting report published this week.
MPs on the Work and Pensions select committee want the Health and Safety Executive to employ another 700 front-line inspectors in the organisation's field operations directorate at a cost of £48 million.
The committee's report endorses the view of inspectors' union Prospect, which gave evidence to the MPs' inquiry into the work of the HSE.
The report states: 'The overwhelming view was that HSE is a high-quality organisation constrained by inadequate resources, seriously adversely affecting its ability to deliver adequately core activities such as inspection, which have a direct impact on ensuring competence.
'We recommend that substantial additional resources are needed in the next three years.'
The committee is critical of the HSE's low level of investigations and recommends that the HSE should reverse its current policy of shifting resources away from inspection and enforcement to advice and information.
It states: 'The evidence supports the view that it is inspection, backed by enforcement, which is most effective in motivating duty holders to comply with their responsibilities.'
A HSE spokeswoman said: 'We can't comment on the recommendations of the report until the Government has made its official response, but the key is finding the right balance between enforcement and advice to make the most effective use of resources.'
MPs expressed concern over delays on long-awaited corporate killing legislation and urged the Government to publish a Bill by December 1.
And the politicians are also calling for new legislation to impose tougher fines on companies flouting the law, as well as a raft of innovative penalties such as disqualification of directors, community service orders or enforced training.
The average fine for HSE prosecutions fell from £11,141 in 2001-02 to £8,828 in 2002-03.
Ucatt general secretary George Brumwell said: 'We welcome this report but one of our fundamental complaints to Government is that a vast number of workers are disqualified from being health and safety reps because of a lack of employment rights.'
Committee chairman Sir Archy Kirkwood MP said: 'Health and safety at work has the potential to effect all of us in our daily lives.The report is a comprehensive review of the subject, which has a common thread: the HSE is under-resourced.'
Key points of the report
Concern over apparently limited progress made in reaching targets in Revitalising Health and Safety
Government should publish Bills on corporate killing and increase fines
Review of the role of HSE's Industry Advisory Committees
Number of inspectors in Field Operations Directorate should be doubled
More proactive approach to enforcement action towards employers who disproportionately rely on temporary agency workers
Government should only buy from suppliers that have proved they comply with UK health and safety legislation
Serious concern at the level of risk to migrant workers.Urgent research needed to improve understanding of the occupational health and safety risks faced by them
HSE should not proceed with the proposal to shift resources from inspection and enforcement.