Time for a Scottish HSE?

Photo of Pat Rafferty
Pat Rafferty

SCOTLAND should have its own Health and Safety Executive, accountable to the Scottish Government and the Scottish people.

That’s the view of Pat Rafferty, Scottish Secretary of the Unite union.

Mr Rafferty told Project Scotland that workplace health and safety legislation should have been devolved to Holyrood, with the Scottish Government having the powers to allocate sufficient resources to it.

Unite recently called for the HSE to conduct a “full and prompt” investigation into the death of a construction worker on the Queensferry Crossing. The worker was reportedly working a spider crane when he was understood to have been hit by the moving boom on the deck of the north tower.

Speaking generally about health and safety in construction, Mr Rafferty said, “I’ve got my own personal view on the Health and Safety Executive; I believe that it should have been devolved. It should have been a Scottish HSE and it should have been given more resources. Its bark seems to be worse than its bite and if people feel that way and their perception is that way, you’ll tend to lose confidence in the bodies that carry out such investigations that we’re calling for.

“If the Health and Safety Executive is devolved it is accountable to the Scottish Government, it is accountable to the Scottish people and you could then get the Scottish Government to resource the Health and Safety Executive from a Scottish perspective.

“It could have been put into our hands and that could have allowed us to try and make it fit for purpose of what we want our Health and Safety Executive to be.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said, “Scottish Ministers are committed to making the case for even greater powers over tax, welfare and the economy to be devolved to Scotland.

“The Government remains of the view that increased scrutiny and accountability by Scottish Parliament for workplace health and safety in Scotland, both legislation and delivery, would ensure that regulatory priorities are informed by evidence and needs of Scottish workers and businesses.”

The British Safety Council (BSC) submitted evidence to the Commons’ Scottish Affairs Committee last year in response to their enquiry into health and safety in Scotland.

The organisation said its members were “evenly divided” on the issue of responsibility for health and safety being devolved to the Scottish Government. The BSC said it was “neutral” on the matter, however it would cause concern if a consequence of devolution was a “reduction in resources and expertise available for health and safety”.

The BSC said it does not support the creation of a separate HSE in Scotland due to “real concerns that the capacity and capability of HSE in Scotland would suffer with the creation of a separate entity”.