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TUC fears funding cuts risk effective delivery of HSE health strategy

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) has broadly welcomed the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) draft health and work strategy and its focus on work-related stress, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and occupational lung disease.

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But the trade union body questions whether the regulator’s sustained budget cuts will allow it to execute the strategy. According to the TUC, reductions of around 40% in the HSE’s budget and changes to its inspection regime over the past seven years have disproportionately impacted on its work to promote and enforce occupational health.  

The draft strategy identifies stress, MSDs and occupational lung diseases, including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asthma, as the HSE’s key priorities in the coming years.

MSDs, which are the most common reported cause of occupational ill health, account for 41% of all work-related ill-health cases and 34% of all working days lost due to ill health. Work-related stress is the second most commonly reported cause of occupational ill health in Great Britain and accounts for 37% of all work-related ill-health cases, and 45% of all working days lost due to ill health.

The HSE also estimates that 12,000 workers die every year as a result of occupational cancers or lung disease. This compares with the 144 workers who died as a result of accidents last year.

The trade union body has long called for an evidence-based approach from the HSE in its targeting of enforcement. Hugh Robertson, senior policy officer for health and safety at the TUC, said that this means “putting the emphasis on the risks that are effecting workers the most, such as cancers, stress and back or limb pain”.

Though the strategy is still at draft stage, Robertson said that it did appear to show a commitment to “focus inspection and enforcement activity where it can have the most effect [and] it also promises a strong research agenda.”

 

Nic Warburton is acting editor, IOSH Magazine

 Nick Warburton is acting editor of IOSH Magazine. He is a former editor of SHP and has also worked on Local Authority Waste and Recycling and Environmental Health Practitioner

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