Health and safety protections

The UK has been a world leader in health and safety, and remains one of the safest countries to work in the developed world.

However, health and safety law has been subject to repeated attacks by successive governments and parts of the UK media, who have sought portray these protections as burdens on businesses and individuals.

Our research and polling finds that this approach is not supported by the British public. Most people see health and safety protections as sensible rules which protect them and their families from harm, and would like to see them strengthened.  In May 2020, six out of 10 people wanted the government to prioritise health and wellbeing over GDP.

With occupational health and safety failures estimated to cost Great Britain £15 billion each year, we believe that the Government should focus on strengthening, not weakening, these rules.

Health and safety protections

The UK has been a world leader in health and safety, and remains one of the safest countries to work in the developed world.

However, health and safety law has been subject to repeated attacks by successive governments and parts of the UK media, who have sought portray these protections as burdens on businesses and individuals.

Our research and polling finds that this approach is not supported by the British public. Most people see health and safety protections as sensible rules which protect them and their families from harm, and would like to see them strengthened.  In May 2020, six out of 10 people wanted the government to prioritise health and wellbeing over GDP.

With occupational health and safety failures estimated to cost Great Britain £15 billion each year, we believe that the Government should focus on strengthening, not weakening, these rules.

Both the Health and Safety Executive and Local Authorities, who share the task of enforcing health and safety law, have experienced huge cuts to their funding and staffing over the last decade.

This erosion of regulatory capacity has had a significant impact on enforcement activity; both of health and safety laws, and of other laws which protect peoples’ health – such as pollution control.

The Health and Safety Executive’s funding fell by over a half between 2010 and 2019. Local Authorities, meanwhile, now spend a third less on health and safety than they did in 2009, and local front-line inspectors have fallen by half.

As a result, the average business can now expect to be visited by Local Authority health and safety inspectors once every 20 years. Less than 0.1% of workplace fatalities and injuries now result in a prosecution.

Enforcement Gap Report
See More Research
Join our Network

Your stories

EILEEN’S STORY

"I was 22 when I escaped the fire that engulfed the entertainment complex Summerland. My partner, who I had been engaged to for two years, didn’t survive."

PERSEPHONE’S STORY

Persephone was a healthy child until the age of two when she first began to be affected by viral induced wheezes. 

GRAHAM’S STORY

"My friend Graham died after being struck by a faulty tail lift on his truck while unloading bread baskets at an Allied Bakery plant in Glasgow in July 2005. He was 40 years old."

DAVID’S STORY

"My young son and I often travelled along the Brixton Road to Stockwell Skatepark. I trusted that the authorities were monitoring the air and would let us know if we were in danger."

KIMBERLEY’S STORY

"My son Theo, who is six, was recently diagnosed with asthma. He coughs a lot less when he is out of the city and at night, because we have put an air purifier in his bedroom."

NATALIE’S STORY

"In April 2002 my dad John Woods went to work and never came home. I was 18, and my world came crashing down."