THE HSE DUTIES DURING THE PANDEMIC, DID THE EXTRA FUNDING DO ITS JOB?
The below article will tell you about the extra funding that the HSE have received and the impact it has had on them conducting their duties during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. The article also highlights the importance of our national regulator the HSE and the essential part they play not just during the COVID-19 pandemic but outside of it as well, ensuring people are following their obligations and keeping their workforce and workplace safe.
The information within this article has been taken from the ‘Crisis lays bare the cost of HSE cuts’ article from the ‘Construction News’ website.
It is a rarity that any public sector organisation receives extra funding from the Government. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) received an extra £14 million in May 2020 for its day-to-day work. If this were mentioned at the start of last year no one would have believed it!
The HSE’S budget had been cut since 2010 of around 32% and is proportionately a larger amount than other public sector organisations. In 2010 the HSE had 1,342 inspectors and last year this had fallen to 1,059. The HSE inspectors are responsible for ensuring safety is followed at workplaces and they cover the whole of Great Britain. When the cuts were made this did result in a steep fall in prosecutions that were carried out.
When the pandemic hit the UK, the prime minister said that a well-resourced safety body was what was greatly needed to help keep workers safe. Unfortunately, the HSE resources had already been significantly reduced prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The HSE received its £14 million funding in May 2020. ‘Construction News’ have said it does not appear to have been enough to deal with the fact that every single workplace, including construction sites, now face the lethal health risk posed by COVID-19.
After the funding was given to the HSE they set out to try and get retired inspectors back to work but the response had been underwhelming. They also had the task of setting up a call-centre to phone companies to ask if they are meeting their obligations. More recently the HSE have had to reach out to private companies to supply operatives to supplement the work of experienced, trained inspectors.
While the pandemic continues, contractors and clients regularly find clusters or outbreaks of COVID-19 cases on site. Many seem to be asking themselves whether this extra funding has been anywhere near enough to deal with the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to everyone’s lives. Although this is a thought in some people’s minds equally no one ever expected the HSE to receive a funding boost.
Health and safety did not just become a significant issue when the outbreak of coronavirus came into our lives, but it certainly has highlighted the importance of Health & Safety to many of us. The Construction industry can be dangerous, and while it is much safer now than it ever was, it still has great risks associated with it. It is therefore very important that construction projects are managed in a safe and correct way. There is a lot of talk about ‘building back better’ after the pandemic comes to an end and we all hope commitment to funding our national health and safety regulator is made.