Health and safety professionals believe Prime Minister David Cameron’s aim to kill of health and safety culture will result in more accidents within the workplace.
An overwhelming 80% of the 600 health and safety professionals surveyed by recruitment consultancy JAM think that the Government does not understand what they do.
A further 58% said that David Cameron’s stated aim of “killing off health and safety culture for good” was likely to lead to an increase in health and safety incidents in the workplace.
The survey also showed that the sector is in danger of facing a future skills shortage, with just 13% of respondents under the age of 35, and only 0.5% under the age of 25. Almost 70% of those questioned said that they believed that young people were deterred from a career in health and safety because of negative media coverage.
The majority of those questioned were in the 46 -55 age category leaving the UK with an exodus of skills in 10 years’ time when this age range reaches retirement.
The survey showed that the sector has already been hard hit by the recession, with 41% of respondents saying that their budget had been cut this year and nearly half, 45%, stating that they felt that their company did not see health and safety as being ‘business critical’ during times of recession.
Over half of those currently working in a health and safety role said that their job has become more difficult since the economic downturn, with staff cuts and reductions in departmental funding cited as the main reasons.
Similarly, only half of those surveyed said they felt valued by their current employer at present and 72% thought that the recession had adversely affected wages in the industry.
Half of those questioned cited misconceptions about what they do, and a lack of support from senior members of staff as the most challenging part of working in health and safety.
The survey found that there was a slightly higher concentration of health and safety professionals in the south east and north west of the country, and that 14% of health and safety professionals on JAM’s database are now working abroad, suggesting that a ‘brain drain’ of qualified health and safety professionals is already taking place.
Upcoming changes to the administration of health and safety regulation in the UK met with a lukewarm reception. Just 35% said that they thought the Löfstedt report, which made recommendations aimed at reducing the regulatory burden on businesses, would have a positive effect on the industry.
Health and safety professionals felt that the closure of the HSE’s Infoline would have a negative impact on safety, with 70% concerned that companies were less likely to adhere to regulation because of a lack of readily available information.
Sheikh Ullah, health and safety team leader at JAM Recruitment, said: “Attitudes towards health and safety tend to go in cycles. It is likely that shedding health and safety employees will lead to a rise in incidents, leading employers to re-evaluate their resourcing.”