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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

Using taxpayer's money to clarify the boundaries of justice.

11 February, 2008
The British Health and Safety Executive have been criticised for wasting taxpayers money by pursuing a claim which ultimately proved to be unsuccessful.
British industry has an enviable reputation for high levels of safety awareness and a robust legal mechanism for dealing with failures to comply with the requirements laid on employers for keeping their staff safe at work.

It wasn't always this way, Blake's "dark satanic mills" are not so far in the distant past and there are countries in the world today that claim to be developed but continue to allow their workforce to expose themselves to dangers every day without their employers feeling any accountability. It is organisations like the HSE which have brought us to a state where we are all comfortable and safe at work but this comes at some cost to the tax payer, of course.

The HSE has just been accused of wasting the taxpayer's money fighting a case where two workers died in an accident that was ruled by several courts as unforeseeable. The HSE argument was that with more comprehensive risk assessment, the accident was indeed foreseeable and therefore the employer had some responsibility.

Going into the details of the case is actually not very relevant because the debate in the press centres around the use of public funds by the HSE to fight the case. Risk assessment plays a big part in our daily corporate lives and has recently become a significant focus due to the increased security risks we face both in the physical world and in information technology. The point the HSE wanted to make was that this enthusiasm should extend to the safety of the workforce. In the HSE legal battle, the argument that the two unfortunate workers could have been saved by improved risk assessment didn't alter the opinion of the judges who ruled that the employer wasn't responsible.

However, the HSE were absolutely right to pursue the matter. Without their strenuous dedication to exploring the legal boundaries, the workplace would be far more dangerous than it is today and there are surely far worse ways of spending tax revenue.
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