Monday, 11 February 2013

More kids to be killed in agriculture?

Despite the absence of positive comments to its consultation the HSE has moved closer to scrapping an effective tool in preventing serious injuries and deaths to children from agriculture. 

The approved code of practice (ACOP) on Preventing accidents to children in agriculture was first written in 1988. Since when the numbers of children killed each year has fallen from six to just two with serious accidents down from 25 to 12. 

Unite was keen to retain the code and submitted a well-researched considered response to the HSE’s recent consultation on proposals to scrap it. 

The union was in a minority, with 62% respondents agreeing with the proposal. Not that they presented any positive proposals for doing so. At the HSE Board meeting in December a report on the ‘positive impacts of proposal identified’ identified “few comments from respondents.” At best a number had indicated support for “reviewing the other HSE publications that provide guidance on child safety on agriculture.” 

This less than ringing endorsement has sadly not stopped the HSE Board – which now contains Howard Shiplee, an executive director at the construction company Laing O’Rourke, one of the companies named by Unite and other unions in a major UK safety blacklisting scandal of trade union safety reps – agreeing to bring forward a paper formally proposing the withdrawal of the ACOP on child safety.

It’s enough to make you weep, which is just what an increasing number of parents, brothers and sisters will be doing in the not too distant future.

No wonder the Unite national health and safety adviser Susan Murray admits to being “dismayed” and continues to argue: “it would be safer to update the ACOP to take account of legislative changes and relaunch it as part of a new farm safety campaign, coupled with a programme of proactive enforcement by the HSE. I hope, even at this late stage the government will listen to reason.” 

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