Dave Putson, Spokesman, 183 pages, paperback, £15
How many times have the tabloid headlines screamed: ‘Health and safety gone mad!’
The idea that the rules governing our health and safety are an ‘albatross around the neck of British businesses’, as David Cameron announced recently, gives a clue to the reasoning behind the media offensive.
Dave Putson’s book, Safe at Work? is a welcome riposte. Putson, a health and safety rep for London courts, traces the development of health and safety legislation, from the campaign to eradicate ‘phossy jaw’ suffered by Victorian match women and legal disputes over compensation, to the role of factory inspectors.
Before the comprehensive 1974 health and safety legislation, there was carnage across industry, with death and serious injury at work commonplace. The new laws were an important breakthrough, yet the number of people who still lose their lives or contract serious illness is frighteningly high – in 2012-13 some 148 people died at work.
Safe at Work? cuts through the fog of misinformation.
The book has an introduction by Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union.
Review by the Bookmarks socialist bookshop. Appears in Labour Research (November 2013). Order Safe At Work? at www.bookmarksbookshop.co.uk or from Spokesman books at www.spokesmanbooks.com.