The Workers Union is calling for a tightening of health and safety rules by insisting that workers have a right to feel safe at work.
The news comes after Honeywell released research that revealed a whopping 71 per cent of UK employees do not feel entirely safe on their employers’ premises.
That figure rises to 78 per cent for remote workers – a group who have particularly pronounced concerns about their places of work.
The survey was conducted by Wakefield Research, who compiled responses from 500 UK-based staff that work in buildings containing at least 500 employees. The research formed part of a world-wide study of 2000 workers, spread across four major markets.
The survey also picked up concerns that company chiefs are happy to make short-term changes in response to COVID-19, but baulk at the idea of improving safety by making long-term investments in building systems.
The Workers Union on Health and Safety at Work
You cannot create a healthy, happy, motivated work force without providing a safe space in which they can operate. To fail in this regard is like issuing front-line soldiers with water pistols or forcing Michelin star chefs to use floor sweepings.
The shame of it is that there are provisions set down in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 that specify the standards expected of employers. These include ‘protecting the health, safety and welfare’ of staff and ‘providing and maintaining safety equipment and safe systems of work.’
Employers are obliged to comply with these terms, but they can also argue that the act’s general duties are limited by a commitment to provide these things only is so far as they are ‘reasonably practicable.’
This means employers can, and do, find ways to skimp on health and safety by claiming that spending cash on certain measures would not be justified by the results. It’s not a foregone conclusion that this line of argument always succeeds (employers can’t dodge their obligations just by claiming they don’t have the money), but it does leave an uncomfortable grey area.
Therefore it’s more important than ever that the rules around health and safety at work are clarified. With COVID-19 rampant, the HSE must increase their rate of inspections and punish those employers who are failing to do their bit. Employees must feel supported and able to call out bad practice without fear of reprisals.
For politicians the choice is simple. Either live up to your post-Brexit promises on workers’ rights and address this problem or betray the trust of working people.
The Workers Union – Fighting for Social Justice, Fighting for You