How inappropriate that the week before Workers Memorial Day (28th April) the House of Lords should see fit to make changes to the Health & Safety At Work Act by removing civil liability for breaches of health and safety regulations.
In an attempt to end what the Government insultingly calls the “compensation culture” peers have approved the removal of a right of action which has existed since 1898, namely the right of employees to claim damages for injuries if they can show an employer has breached a statutory duty. In changes to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, employees will now face the full burden of proving negligence. The only beneficiaries of this change will be unscrupulous employers and greedy insurance companies – with the financial burden being transferred to injured employees, their dependants and the State.
In a week when we remember the horrors of asbestosis and other industrial accidents and diseases, this Government’s relentless attacks on health and safety at work in the name of “removing red tape” is totally inexcusable. They have already slashed funding to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) by 35% within the last year, and are now questioning whether the HSE itself is “necessary”. With 49 deaths in construction alone last year, we would argue that it is more necessary now than ever. The safety of workers should be their number one priority – not the profit margins of major corporations attempting to subvert the law and get away with not paying compensation when an accident does happen. Not content with attacking employment rights generally, they are intent on removing the most fundamental right of all – the right to be safe. This must count as a new low for the Conservatives – unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the “nasty party” just got even nastier.”