UK safety charity responds to workers’ rights and building safety announcements in Queen’s Speech

19/12/2019

Responding to the Queen’s Speech, RoSPA chief executive Errol Taylor said: “We were pleased to hear that the Government is set to create new measures to protect tenants through building safety.
 
“Given the Grenfell Tower tragedy in June 2017, these measures inevitably focus on fire prevention. However, it is important to remember that for every fire-related hospital admission in England, there are more than 200 that are caused by accidental falls. These falls could be prevented by zero and low-cost design features and specifications. We must take this opportunity to not only protect residents from fire but also the other, far greater numbers of deaths and serious injuries that are caused by falls.
 
“We urge the Government to consider adopting measures outlined in RoSPA’s Safer by design framework. It provides house builders, architects, housing associations and others with financially- and practically-viable options for designing out the causes of falls and other accidents, which occur at huge rates amongst the population, not least to the most vulnerable – older people, the very young, and the poorest.
 
“Elsewhere, the speech covered a new Employment Bill, with a stated purpose to ‘protect and enhance workers’ rights’. The briefing on the Bill references ‘high standards’, ‘good regulation’ and protection for businesses which do the right thing so they are not undercut by those that do not. While all of these elements sound worthy and are to be welcomed, we have yet to see the detail of how they might correspond to the most fundamental of all workers’ rights – the right to go home safe and healthy at the end of a working day. The health and safety of workers was not explicitly mentioned, and it was also notable that there was no reference to the Government being required to communicate how any new laws might affect workers’ rights and whether the UK would mirror new EU laws – both of which had been mentioned previously. This is disappointing because it appears to remove a key element of accountability in relation to how workers’ rights might change post-Brexit.
 
“We agree with today’s Government briefing that ‘good regulation is essential to successful businesses’, and we would add here that ‘good’ means proportionate to the risk. For health and safety in the workplace, it’s a simple equation – fewer injuries and ill health because of proportionate health and safety equals more time spent at work by more people. When good practice is disregarded, it can be devastating for individuals, families, businesses and communities.
 
“We, together with our sector partners including British Safety Council, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, are discussing ways in which we can work together to make the case for maintaining and enhancing workers’ protections.”
 
See RoSPA’s pre-general election manifesto for more details.

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