On behalf of more than 1,600 inspectors, scientists and other specialist staff in the Health and Safety Executive, Prospect negotiator Mike Macdonald said:
"The idea that health and safety legislation is a burden is ludicrous given that there are only 200 health and safety regulations in total, so any reduction in these will be a tiny percentage of the 3,000 cited by government.
"This smacks of jumping on the health and safety bashing bandwagon again. The government's own advisor Lord Young highlighted how damaging to perceptions of health and safety scurrilous stories are. Yet Vince Cable is clearly using the technique to mislead UK SMEs.
"Far from being an albatross round the neck of business, research shows that a safe and healthy workforce is more efficient and productive.
"Our members are not against streamlining redundant legislation and have always recognised the need to prioritise their work – that's what risk assessment is about and what HSE staff are experts in.
"But there is a world of difference between a strategy based on evidence of risk and that based on a prejudiced deregulatory agenda that will have a detrimental impact on people's lives."