Letter: Workers risk fatal radiation exposure to keep their jobs

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The Independent Online
Sir: You quite rightly point out that the death of William Neilson from a massive radiation dose ('Worker killed by record dose of radiation', 9 May) raises important questions both about the Government's deregulation Bill and about its policies towards health and safety. This year the Government has axed 120 jobs at the Health and Safety Executive, cut its grant by pounds 13m and slashed safety representatives' training grants by 25 per cent, as part of a plan to abolish these altogether by 1995.

During this same year, an average of nine people per week will be killed as a result of accidents at work; 600 people per week will suffer serious injuries such as the loss of fingers, hands, arms, legs and eyes; and more than 150,000 injuries requiring three or more days off work will be reported.

The Government claims that its deregulation Bill is aimed at reducing 'burdens'. By depriving the Health and Safety Executive of funding and resources to tackle effectively the problems of non-compliance and bad practice, the Government is adding to, not reducing, burdens on business.

Mr Neilson's death is part of a catalogue of shame that is costing this country an estimated pounds 11bn- pounds 16bn a year. This is the real burden. It is a burden that will not be lightened by reducing the effectiveness of the HSE through cuts and political interference, or by limiting the scope of health and safety law through deregulation.

When the review of regulations is published, readers should ask of each proposal one simple question: will the repeal of this regulation reduce protection for existing workers? If the answer is yes, then the law must remain on the statute books.

Yours sincerely,

KEVIN BARRON

MP for Rother Valley (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1

9 May

The writer is shadow employment minister and Labour's spokesperson on health and safety.

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