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Health and Safety


When work is contracted out, safety is often forgotten.

Privatisation, downsizing, agency and temporary work, casualisation, contracting out and the sharp growth in small and medium sized firms and self-employment have led to many more contractors in many more workplaces.

In a number of industries, whole sections of work are done by contractors such as catering, cleaning, refuse collection, laundry, street cleaning, construction and community services.

Private contractors consistently trail public authority employers when it comes to their record on health and safety. The jobs contractors do can be particularly risky: They can be unfamiliar with the sites and situations they find. Legal responsibilities become uncertain, or are assumed to be someone else’s problem, in the minds of contractor and sub-contractor.

There is a severe lack of union safety reps within contracted out services. A UNISON survey in 2003 found union safety reps present in 96 per cent of public authority workplaces with their numbers dropping to only 22 per cent in contractor firms. Workplaces with trade union safety representatives have half as many serious accidents.

Safety reps and unions have faced difficulties with contractors creating additional hazards in the workplace. It has often proved difficult for safety reps to get their employer to ensure outside contractors adhere to agreed safety standards.


HSE guides :

UNISON guide: Safety compromised? How contracting out is bad for health and safety

Simon Jones Memorial Campaign

The most recent documents available on this subject are:

London seeks to lead Britain in the challenge to secure better health and safety at work
A world class city must have world class workplaces, that means aspiring to and achieving world class standards of health and safety at work – not for some, but for all. And the roadmap for turning that dream into a reality includes there being a health and safety rep in every workplace in London and a positive and meaningful partnership between that rep, the employer, unions and the Health and Safety Executive. Those are the key messages from an event (today) organised by HSE London and the Southern and Eastern Region TUC for more than 200 London based health and safety reps.
19 November 2004

RMT calls for suspension of dangerous 'Tube privateer'
Tube maintenance contractor Metronet should be suspended and its maintenance work taken back in house, the union RMT has said.
PDF version available for download
27 August 2004

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