In the United States, it is pretty rare to discover that presidential candidates have included occupational health and safety as part of their campaign position statements, let alone part of their election strategy.
In the UK, the British Safety Council has reached out to six of the main political parties in advance of their May 7 general election to determine if any of the candidates care about occupational safety and health.
“With less than two months to the general election, we wanted to hear from the parties ahead of the election what their plans and priorities are for ensuring that those at work are kept healthy and safe,” said Neal Stone, acting chief executive of the British Safety Council (BSC).
“We focused on six political parties – namely the Conservative, Green, Labour, Liberal Democrat, SNP and UKIP. It is certain that one, or more, of these parties will be in government come May 7,” he said. “Their views on how they plan to help grow a sustainable economy, and the role that good health and safety will play in achieving that goal, are of vital importance to British Safety Council, our member organizations and their employees.”
“BSC asked the candidates three questions. The first concerned how health and safety is regulated, and in particular how each of the parties would support the Health and Safety Executive and local authorities to ensure that risks are being adequately controlled.
“As budgets are tight and public spending on regulation and enforcement reduces, we want to hear from parties what they will do to ensure regulators are adequately resourced including their views on HSE becoming more commercial,” said Stone.
BSC also asked about the role and responsibility of employers to help address the nation’s health issues through workplace interventions.
“Health risks are always difficult to tackle and in many ways have been a second order priority as we focused largely on the prevention of injuries at work,” Stone admitted. “However, our failure to effectively manage occupational health risks, costing some £8bn each year, is a huge burden for the country. The workplace can be a very convenient place to convey important health messages from occupational disease like cancer, to obesity and the dangers of physical inactivity.”
Finally, BSC wanted to hear from the candidates what the government could do to help employers to do more to invest in good health and safety. There are many innovations in the field of insurance and taxation, some already in operation other countries, which could encourage sound investment to help prevent workplace injury and ill health occurrences.
“Getting businesses to invest in effective health and safety measures, is critical,” said Stone. “We know that investment in training and the proper maintenance of plant, equipment and machinery can help reduce lost time and maintain productivity whilst saving the public purse billions spent by the NHS on healthcare.”
The British Safety Council is planning to publish the responses it receives from the six parties in the May 2015 edition of Safety Management.