Earlier, David Cameron declared in a speech in Maidenhead that one of the coalition government's new year resolutions was "to kill off the health and safety culture for good."
He announced a string of measures to reduce regulation, including:
- lifting the requirement for employers to report minor accidents;
- exempting one million self-employed workers from health and safety regulation;
- giving employers the right to challenge controversial inspection decisions;
- abolishing or consolidating up to half of existing H&S regulations.
Along with steps to cap awards in small-value personal injury claims, these measures would help to lift the "culture of fear" that the Prime Minister claimed hangs over British business.
But Prospect pointed to the government's own review of health and safety by Professor Ragnar Lofstedt, which reported late last year. Lofstedt found:
"I have neither seen nor heard any evidence to suggest that there is a case for radically altering or stripping back current health and safety regulation." In general, the regulations are "fit for purpose", he concluded.
Sarah Page, the union's health and safety officer, said that neither Lord Young nor any other government-commissioned review had provided evidence of a compensation culture.
"Lord Young agreed that much of the UK problem with H&S is one of perception and that this is fuelled by the media. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister seems determined to ignore the findings of his own advisors and play fast and loose with the facts in a way that can only be harmful to the health of millions of British workers."
Page cited the Olympics as a classic health and safety success story. "One of the reasons we're so proud of the UK Olympics project is because its construction has succeeded to time without a single workplace fatality and with a remarkable track record on health and safety.
"Why? Because from director level downwards, everyone believes that workers should go home at the end of each shift without injury or ill health caused by their work. To that end, they approached the entire project in a partnership.
"So why does the PM keep banging on about red tape? He should catch up with the real world."
Page criticised the government's failure to consult before deciding to set up challenge panels or to cut and consolidate regulations.
Professor Lofstedt had found that nine out of 10 employers who have had contact with the Health and Safety Executive see it as a 'helpful' organisation, and that H&S regulations from Europe are not gold-plated, she pointed out.