Unite calls for action on workplace death delays

Friends and families who have lost loved ones to workplace fatalities are having to wait an agonising three years four months to secure justice, according to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request made by Unite, the UK’s largest union.
Unite has described the figures that show the average time between a workplace death and conviction of 1,234 days as ‘shameful’ and called on all political parties to make a commitment to hold a systemic review, to reduce the extraordinary length of time between a workplace death and a conviction.
Unite has released the figures in the run up to International Workers’ Memorial Day on Friday 28 April to highlight the severe delays in achieving justice following a workplace fatal accident. The delays are far longer than those that occur in a high profile criminal case.
The FoI also revealed that the time between a fatality and a conviction is increasing. In 2009/10 the average length of time between a workplace fatality and a conviction was 1,206 days.
There are concerns that delays in securing a conviction following a workplace fatality could increase due to pressures on the budgets of the public bodies concerned. For example by 2020 the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) budget is expected to be nearly half (a reduction of 46 per cent) of what the organisation received in 2009/10.
In some sectors the delay between a fatality and a conviction are even greater. Last year Labour MP Stephen Hepburn secured a parliamentary answer that revealed that the average time for a conviction following a fatal accident in the construction industry (which has the highest number of UK deaths) was 1,267 days.
There are a large number of public bodies involved in a workplace prosecution and conviction including; the police, the coroner’s office, the court service as well as the HSE. A co-ordinated review between these public bodies by government should be with a view to ensure the families, friends and colleagues of those killed whilst at work have answers to their questions and agonising delays are avoided.
In the vast majority of cases companies and individuals responsible for a workplace accident simply receive a fine.
Unite, acting general secretary, Gail Cartmail, said: “These figures are distressing. It is terrible to lose a loved one at work but then to have to wait for over three years before those responsible are brought to justice, dramatically increases and prolongs that agony.
“Unite is calling on all political parties to commit to holding a major review following the general election and bring together all the agencies involved in the process to understand why these delays are occurring and then dramatically speed up the process.
“The motto of International Workers’ Memorial Day is remember the dead and fight for the living. In fighting for the living, workers should be assured of a commitment to deliver workplace justice in a timely manner.”