Prospect, which represents 1,700 staff in HSE, says it is unacceptable that the organisation responsible for enforcing health and safety law has been facing year-on-year real term cuts and dwindling staff numbers while the Financial Services Authority (FSA) has seen a rise in both funding and staff over the same period, despite the increase in the number of people killed at work.
Prospect HSE Branch Chair, Neil Hope-Collins said: "Whatever spin is being put on these figures, the reality is the families of 241 workers lost a loved one - 29 more than last year.
"The government needs to be clear about its priorities as workers in Britain will only get the protection that society and politicians are prepared to pay for. Do they want to protect your money or your life? Today’s figures suggest that it’s not your lives."
Hope-Collins warned that if HSE is forced to accept further proposed year-on-year cuts over the next three-year financial settlement the situation will only get worse; HSE’s own estimates put its total workforce at no more than 2,600 full-time equivalents by 2011.
Their duties include not only visiting and inspecting staff but also support and policy staff who enable HSE to carry out advice and enforcement across all UK industries. The union fears the current position will be exacerbated by the loss of even more experienced staff if plans to relocate HSE’s policy division away from Westminster are ratified by the Health and Safety Commission on November 6.
"Reducing resources to the HSE is a false economy and has impacted on today’s fatal accident figures. It will continue to have an impact in the future unless these cuts are reversed," said Hope-Collins. "We believe that HSE has gone beyond the critical mass at which it is capable of performing the functions that the public and politicians expect of it."
HSE employed 4,162 full time equivalents in April 2003, dropping to 3,548 by April 2007. It plans to reduce to around 3,100 by April 2008. HSE has 300,000 duty holders and a budget for 2006-07 of £295m compared to FSA’s 29,000 duty holders and a budget of £276m.