Letter: No slackness in safety inspections

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The Independent Online
Sir: The article by David Bergman 'Inexperience of safety inspectors criticised' (15 July) is simply not an accurate representation of the internal Health and Safety report on which it was supposedly based.

For example, the report does not say that company directors and managers have escaped prosecution for health and safety offences because HSE inspectors lack experience and training.

One of its recommendations is indeed for more prosecutions of individuals holding senior management posts. However, the report recognises that to achieve this, additional training will be needed on obtaining evidence from individuals. This is required because of recent developments in the operation of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. The police already tape-record all interviews, and it is possible the courts will come to expect this of all enforcement agencies. We are running a pilot study to assess the feasibility of tape-recording all interviews and, of course, inspectors needed training for this study.

We have never made any secret of the fact that, following recent successful recruitment campaigns, a number of our inspectors are relatively lacking in experience. However, it is simply not true to suggest that employers escape prosecution as a result.

New inspectors receive enforcement training early on in their career and are as keen as more experienced staff to put this to good use.

We are used to being accused of leniency. The charge never sticks, because the facts do not support it. For example, I doubt whether the company director we prosecuted last month for not complying with a prohibition notice, who found himself disqualified from holding a directorship of a company for two years, would agree with Mr Bergman. But there again, the court could also have imprisoned that director for two years. In that respect, he had a lucky escape.

Yours faithfully,

DAVID EVES

Deputy Director General

Health and Safety Executive

London, W2

15 July

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