Red tape challenge is 'red herring', say unions

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Occupational safety and health

Red tape challenge is 'red herring', say unions
Trade unions have criticised government efforts to address health and safety (H&S) red tape as a "sham", and say the coalition should focus more resources on evidence-based work via the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Doug Russell, H&S officer for the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW ) attacked internet H&S forums "pandering to the prejudiced and misinformed".

He said the H&S strand of the government's Red Tape Challenge, which invites firms to suggest ways to cut bureaucracy online, was a "red herring".

Russell said: "The food industry still has an accident rate nearly twice as high as the manufacturing average. It would be better if government devoted more resources to evidence-based work by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), employers and unions through the Food and Drink Manufacture Health and Safety Forum to raise awareness."

Non-existent laws

The forum includes representatives from the HSE's Food Section, the Food and Drink Federation, other food/drink trade bodies and food industry unions.

Complaints on the Red Tape Challenge website about H&S bureaucracy mostly concern non-existent laws; poor legal understanding; or were irrelevant to industry H&S, Russell claimed.

Jennie Formby, national officer for food, drink and tobacco at trade union Unite, said the Red Tape Challenge was "a sham"​ and called for improved enforcement. "Web-based discussion forums will not prevent the rising tide of ill health and deaths at work," ​she said.

HSE figures issued last month showed deaths at work rose by 16% last year. Food industry fatalities were the lowest, though, with just two in 2010-2011.

Tom Chambers, Greencore H&S manager and member of the Institute of Occupational Safety & Health's Food and Drink Group, praised HSE campaigns, but said: "It's completely wrong to perceive health and safety regulations as unnecessary red tape."

The government website,, was launched in April and has six streams, including H&S, for which comments are invited from June 30 to July 21.

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