Workplace Deaths: Scotland

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:11 pm on 24th July 2019.

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Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions 4:11 pm, 24th July 2019

We are already world-leading, and the new Prime Minister will continue everything that is great about this country. I am sure that he will take particular interest in how we are recognised for our achievement in the area, and rightly so.

The HSE has commissioned research to gain a better understanding of farmers’ attitudes to risk and risk-taking behaviour. From that research, a programme of interventions has been developed, including HSE-funded training known as agricultural compliance events. The training includes management of the risks of the most common causes of fatal injury on farms. The events are followed up by inspections to ensure compliance. To date, approximately 500 Scottish farmers have attended the events.

The HSE has also developed new guidance targeted at influencing those farmers who are unclear about how to manage risk and are most likely to have an incident at work. From that work, the key actions that the HSE is taking with the agriculture sector to improve standards are challenging the industry to take ownership of issues, developing shared solutions to known problems, and delivering consistent actions and messages.

In the construction sector, performance has improved over the past decade, and the number and rate of fatal incidents shows a long-term downward trend. An important vehicle for driving continuing construction improvements is Site Safe Scotland, a well-established tripartite partnership that works on improving health and safety on Scottish construction projects. Trade unions, major construction employers, training providers and the HSE support campaigns and initiatives across the country, such as the Scottish Working Well Together group.

The HSE wants to see a continuation of the downward trend in fatal accidents in construction, which will be tackled by embedding the principles of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015; supporting small businesses to achieve improved risk management and control; reducing the likelihood of low-frequency, high-impact catastrophic incidents such as fires or structural collapse by making early and strategic interventions in major projects; and developing clear standards of construction risk leadership and leading performance indicators.

The HSE works with Police Scotland, the Scottish Occupational Road Safety Alliance and others as part of a national campaign on the causes of fatalities in the transport sector, such as during loading and unloading, when workplace fatalities and injuries may occur as a result of poorly loaded and poorly secured goods.

I am pleased that we have been able to debate this important issue and highlight some of the common causes of workplace fatal injuries. The HSE will continue to engage with businesses and stakeholders in Scotland, as it will in England and Wales. It uses a range of regulatory actions, from influencing behaviours across whole industry sectors to making targeted interventions in particular sectors and activities. It will continue to hold to account those businesses that fail in their responsibilities to protect workers. While the increase this year in workers’ deaths in agriculture is troubling, it is time not to change direction, but rather to continue to work together to reinforce the changes needed to safeguard workers’ lives.

Once again, I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill for securing the debate, and to other hon. Members for their excellent contributions. On any points that I have not been able to address during my speech, I will write with further details. I remind all colleagues that the HSE takes the issue incredibly seriously. Speaking in a personal capacity, having worked with the HSE for several years, I have been really impressed with how willing it is to engage with individual MPs. I have attended meetings of a number of all-party parliamentary groups that focus on particular areas of its work, where I have seen its technical knowledge and its willingness to challenge, adapt and work with all organisations, businesses, trade unions, stakeholders and Governments. In this area, we are world-leading.

The figures are disappointing, and I genuinely feel for all the families, but there is a real cross-party commitment to continue to do everything we can in this important area. I thank the hon. Gentleman again for his very constructive speech.

Question put and agreed to.