As have austerity measures, but what if plans to reduce public expenditure actually threaten to do more harm than good when it comes to the business world? Well, according to a new report published by Stirling University, this is likely to be the case when it comes to the UK Heath & Safety Executive, the agency charged with ensuring guidelines and laws are adhered to in the corporate community.
Over the last three years 13 per cent of the HSE budget, and 22 per cent of the staff therein, have been cut. The idea being to reduce the red tape so often seen as off-putting to foreign organisations, whilst saving some much needed money in terms of the civil service wage bill and similar expenses. However, a rise of 2,700 serious and fatal injuries has been recorded in the last five years, despite the fact that over the same period the HSE has investigated 8 per cent less incidents.
Clearly then a worrying number of accidents in the workplace are being overlooked in order to reduce outgoings. Yet this alone does not explain the rise in prevalence of accidents- a scenario that would appear to have arisen due to the Government’s current policy of placing an emphasis on self-regulation within industry. Business owners and managers now have far more responsibilities towards employees, but fewer checks are made on them to ensure compliance.
Therefore the often-overwhelming cost of negligence actually means this practice if more damaging that it is of benefit. This is because the policy encourages a negative culture amongst firms, meaning those with real concerns over HSE guidelines are usually failing to meet minimum standards. In the instances whereby this results in injury the cost of this can also be felt by compliant firms, meanwhile the UK’s National Heath Service foots the bill for any time in hospital and healthcare facilities- proof if it were needed that economising of this kind is actually wholly misguided.