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The Times article: "You Support Health and Safety? What have you been smoking?"

Geoffrey Podger, HSE's Chief Executive responds - 14 January 2006

The Editor
The Times
1 Pennington Street
E98 1TA

16 January 2006

Dear Sir

Jamie Whyte appears to believe that workers, and in particular the lower paid, should be allowed to take higher wages rather than be reasonably protected against the risks inherent in their employment (You support Health & Safety? What have you been smoking? - 14 January ). This is emphatically not the view of the Health and Safety Executive and seems to me quite contrary to the idea of a civilised society.

This argument also has practical as well as major ethical difficulties. For example, one of the most dangerous occupations in the UK is tree surgery. People working in this sector have a 1 in 120 chance each year of being killed or suffering a major injury. The going rate for tree surgeons is about £60 per day. Is Jamie Whyte really suggesting that this is a way in which "an uneducated man can earn high wages"?

We believe sensible, reasonably practicable precautions should be taken to prevent the real suffering caused each year by more than 220 workplace deaths, 30,000 major injuries and 2 million cases of work-related ill health. Rather than being a zero-sum game, there are also business benefits to introducing health and safety measures: case studies of organisations that have realised such gains are available on HSE's website at

Yours faithfully

Geoffrey Podger
Chief Executive
Health and Safety Executive


Updated 2008-12-05