Thursday 8 July 2010

Road casualties and the farce of The Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is to investigate how a cyclist badly injured his foot in a tractor-driven hedge trimmer after helping the driver. The 38-year-old is believed to have stopped in Oakhurst Road, Oswestry, to help the driver remove a large branch trapped in the blades. But as he pushed off on his bike, he is thought to have somehow got his left foot caught in the trimmer blades.

He suffered extensive injuries during the incident on Tuesday afternoon.

But the HSE will NOT be investigating the two cycling fatalities which also occurred in Shropshire that day. Although the HSE has formidable powers to make recommendations to prevent the recurrence of ‘accidents’ its remit has been cynically restricted to exclude most road fatalities:

The exemption from the reporting requirements of RIDDOR for most types of incident on the road means that HSE will not receive large numbers of RIDDOR notifications of road traffic incidents.

You can find the restrictions on the notification, under theHealth and Safety Regulation, of accidents involving moving vehicles on roads listed here.

It is argued that even within its restricted remit, the HSE is not attending to its remit:

The HSE’s ‘mission is to protect people’s health and safety by ensuring risks in the changing workplace are properly controlled’. As far as I know, none of the incidents that led to the deaths of the seven London bicycle messengers known to have died whilst working have ever been referred to the HSE. This despite the fact that they were all killed by collisions by commercial vehicles driven by working drivers.


At least one in four road deaths is caused by someone driving for work, according to Department for Transport statistics. In 2006, 858 people were killed and 6622 were seriously injured in crashes involving people doing work-related driving - that's an increase of 9% since 2005, when the statistics were first published.

Road safety charity Brake is worried that the actual figure could be higher, because it believes many at-work road casualties are still not properly categorised by police.

There are responsible people within the business community who are very concerned about the current situation, but no government wants to know. As far as our crap politicians and governance are concerned, mass carnage on the roads is a small price to pay when profits are involved.

As ‘Manchester cyclist’ points out on the CTC forum:

As well as being immune from manslaughter charges, motorists who kill or injure are also protected from investigation by the Health and Safety Executive. Under Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) employers and the self-employed are obliged to ensure the safety of others. In any other scenario, an accident would be preserved, and a team from the HSE would make a detailed analysis of the causes of the accident. They would then report with suggestions on future preventative measures. If this was a road collision, 20mph urban speed limits would be recommended within weeks, and road deaths would fall very quickly.

But instead, the HSE ignores road deaths and injury: In road traffic collisions, the police sweep away the evidence and the imperative is to get motorised traffic moving again as quickly as possible.

Until this mindset changes, or the legal fraternity set up a test case involving the HSE, our roads and highways will remain dangerous and sometimes lethal for vulnerable users such as pedestrians and cyclists.

Campaigning to widen the HSE’s remit to include all injury crashes would, in my view, be far more effective than campaigns like SMIDSY.