Scottish Safety Anomaly

Falkirk East MSP Cathy Peattie has called for action to address the “Scottish Safety Anomaly”

The latest HSE figures show that Scotland’s workplace injury rate remains persistently above the UK average.

“I have raised this issue before, but it has not yet been properly addressed,” said Cathy.

“The latest figures show that that the rate of fatal and major injuries in Scottish was 115.1 per hundred thousand, compared to 105.8 for the UK as a whole. We also have less success with prosecutions.

“Health and Safety legislation is a reserved matter, but this is not just about legislation, it is about attitudes, awareness and resources. The Scottish Government has a duty to the Scottish people to do what it can to promote better working practices and safety consciousness.”

Cathy has tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament to highlight the figures, which show that in 2007-08 there were 32 fatal injuries and 2,721 major injuries to workers in Scotland, compared to 229 and 27,976 in the United Kingdom as a whole, and that only 52% of related prosecutions were successful in Scotland, compared to 89% in the rest of the UK.

“I am also very concerned by reports that the number of HSE inspectors in Scotland is falling, but worrying though this is, it is not the cause of the anomaly, which has been a feature of the figures for some years. We need action by the UK Government to strengthen the HSE, but I believe that there are also things that can be achieved – that we can and should be doing – within devolved powers to address this issue.”

Asbestos

Cathy also spoke in parliament last week in favour of Scottish legislation to restore compensation to those diagnosed with various asbestosis related conditions.

“Pleural plaques may be benign in the strict medical sense, but there is nothing benign about someone knowing that they have had sufficient exposure to asbestos to develop the condition. There is nothing benign about someone knowing that such exposure means that they are at a considerably greater risk of developing mesothelioma than people who have no asbestos-related symptoms. There is nothing benign about the impact of pleural plaques on someone’s physical and mental wellbeing. Therefore, I do not accept the generalisations about pleural plaques being harmless.

“I object to such symptoms being dismissed as medically trivial. I do not consider internal injuries such as scarred lungs—with or without symptoms—to be medically trivial; nor do I consider the negligence of employers who have exposed workers to asbestos to be medically, ethically or legally trivial.

Let us face it: pleural plaques are indisputable evidence of membership of a high-risk group. It does not matter how many times people are told that pleural plaques will not significantly affect them; they are bound to see that that is nonsense when they are clearly affected. Any attempt to dismiss or brush aside the significance of pleural plaques as benign is unlikely to change that.

“How benign is it to know that heavy exposure gives you a 10% risk that you will die prematurely of mesothelioma – a thousand times more than the average person?”

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