Letter: Work fatalities need legislation

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Sir: To describe a 20 per cent increase in the number of fatalities at work this year as a "rather tragic blip", in the words of Jenny Bacon, the director-general of the Health and Safety Executive, defies credulity. This is the largest single annual increase, Piper Alpha fatalities excluded, since the passing of the Health and Safety at Work Act in 1974. As the figures are provisional only, on past experience they will almost certainly rise further.

Critics of the previous Conservative administration have long argued that such a rise would be inevitable as the ideal of responsible self- regulation of workplace safety was supplanted by the crude economic imperatives of doctrinaire deregulation. It is time for New Labour to consider the enactment of a comprehensive new Safety and Health in the Workplace Act.

This would replace a law that is currently so clearly failing in its key objectives and that takes no account of the changes in employer power over the past two decades.


Deputy Convenor

Centre for Regulatory Studies

University of Glasgow