Union anger at low-risk rating for tough jobs

Health and Safety Executive reclassifies many physical trades despite 171 workers killed last year

Relatives of a young man killed in January while working at Immingham docks on the Humber estuary were among thousands who gathered in services nationwide yesterday to mark Workers' Memorial Day.

Tim Elton, a 28-year-old agency worker who died when a mound of coal collapsed on the ship MV Excalibur, was the fifth person to be killed on the docks in Britain since October. His colleagues tried desperately to dig him out of the coal pile with their bare hands.

The dead man was said to have recently worked 26 night shifts without a break and, it is reported that when health and safety inspectors investigated his death they discovered another hazard so great – but still unspecified – that they issued a stop work notice at Immingham because of "the risk of serious injury".

Services to remember those killed by their jobs took place in towns and cities across the country yesterday. Not including occupational diseases such as asbestos-related cancers, 171 people were killed by their work last year. At Immingham's war memorial, Mr Elton's parents laid a wreath to commemorate their son and others killed at work.

Despite the high death rate among dock workers, it is one of several jobs that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is rebranding as "low risk", meaning docks will no longer be subject to spot-check inspections to help prevent fatal accidents.

Experts say jobs that are up to four times more deadly than the building trade will become "dangerously under-regulated". The executive plans to cut inspection costs and roll back on health and safety. Dock workers, farmers and manufacturers are among those who will see their industries classified as "low risk", meaning they will no longer face proactive inspections; instead, investigators will go in only after a death or serious incident.

Hilda Palmer of Hazards, a campaign group, said: "If the HSE aren't going out and doing spot checks – and companies know that this isn't happening – it'll be very dangerous and make the situation worse."

Construction work, which will still be subject to on-the-spot inspections, results in 2.4 deaths per 100,000 workers. This is a significantly lower rate than farming and dock work which, although they employ fewer people, have death rates of 10 and 8 per 100,000 respectively.

Herbert Styles, a Unite convener who organised several of yesterday's memorials, said: "These are cuts that will cost lives. If they don't let the HSE do pre-emptive inspections, then the only time they'll go in is to investigate deaths – when it will be too late. It would make such industries dangerously under-regulated."

Anne Jones, whose 24-year-old son Simon was killed at Shoreham dock in 1998, was appalled at the move to reclassify the industry as low risk. She told Hazards Magazine: "I was told at the time that working docks were high risk, and so I find it baffling that the Government has decided that docks are now classified as low risk and not in need of proactive inspections by our safety police."

A spokesman for the Health and Safety Executive said: "No industries are exempted from the requirement to maintain effective control and management of the risks they create, and agriculture and quarries are priority sectors for HSE. The sectors in which HSE prioritises proactive inspection are those where there are both significant problems and proactive inspection is likely to be both efficient and effective."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before