Safety prosecutions in perspective.
It is often said that the British care more about their dogs than their fellow humans and here are some statistics that seem to bear that out.
The RSPCA have just published their prosecutions statistics. Last year they secured 4,168 convictions against 1,552 people, with a conviction rate of 98%. This is a great achievement from a body that employs less than 1,700 people, and good luck to them.
Let’s compare this with the statistics for people who kill and injure workers. Across Great Britain, 680 cases were prosecuted for health and safety breaches in 2011/12. These cases led to 630 convictions, with a conviction rate of 93%. This is for cases brought by both the HSE and by Local Authorities. The HSE, which managed to secure 506 of these convictions, employs around twice the number of staff as the RSPCA.
It terms of imprisonment for killing workers the figures are even starker. Following an RSPCA prosecution, 86 people were sent to prison last year for breaching animal protection laws. In comparison, according to the HSE website, “5 people have been sent to prison for health and safety offences since January 1996.” This is slightly more than one every three years.
What does it say about a society that sends 200 times more people to prison for abusing animals than it does for risking the health of their workforce?
And it is not like the problem is minor. At least 20,000 people die every year because employers break health and safety laws. The vast majority are a result of cancers and lung diseases caused by exposure to asbestos and other carcinogens and dusts. These are all preventable. So are the 212 000 injuries that lead to workers having to take time off work every year.
Now I do not think the solution is to turn the HSE into a charity and seek donations to “save the workers”, nor is it to send huge numbers of employers to prison, but clearly the balance is wrong, and the gap is likely get even wider as the government continues to slash the number of inspections (Local Authority inspections have fallen by 86% in 3 years). The Government needs to see the crisis in worker protection in proportion and start taking serious action against those criminals who are getting away with killing and injuring their workforce.