Earlier this year, the British Safety Council drew attention to the likely impact of significant budget cuts, some 35% between 2011/2015, on the ability of HSE to continue to carry out the present level of inspection visits to employers' premises.
Julie Nerney, British Safety Council chief executive, is calling for a public discussion about how best to deal with the reality of fewer resources for public bodies involved in health and safety regulation.
She said: "The British Safety Council recognises there are strong arguments from some interest groups that, given our comparative record on preventing workplace accidents and ill-health occurrences, it is only right resources devoted to regulation and enforcement should be looked at critically and even reduced.
"Conversely, others, including the British Safety Council, are concerned about the consequences for HSE's capability and for workers' health and safety of a reduction in proactive inspections. These have proven to be a very effective tool in encouraging compliance and preventing harm.
"We may be only a few weeks away from the government's announcement of how it plans to move ahead with the next round of health and safety reform. It is essential that all stakeholders, including employers, trade associations, trade unions and health and safety bodies, such as the British Safety Council, have the opportunity to properly engage with the government and the regulatory bodies on the role and contribution of enforcement. We also need to be particularly engaged on the implications of cutbacks to enforcement and to explore, as necessary, how the inevitable enforcement deficit can be effectively tackled.
"The most important message we will be looking for from the government is that safe and healthy workplaces remain a top priority; and the role of HSE in helping to deliver that goal is one they will ensure by working with a wide range of stakeholders on the ground."