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Watchdog hits out at government's Covid-19 safety failings

Hazard Group says millions of lives have been put at risk by inadequacies of government

MILLIONS of lives have been needlessly put at risk by the government’s inadequate response to the coronavirus pandemic, health and safety campaigners warned today.

The analysis comes as authorities reported a further 936 deaths from Covid-19, the country’s highest total so far and bringing the total to 7,172.

Analysis by the Hazards Campaign group has exposed a catalogue of government shortfalls, including its refusal to stop all non-essential work, inability to supply health service staff with protective equipment and failure to introduce a comprehensive testing and tracking system to contain the virus.

Hazards also condemned the absurdity of continuing construction work on luxury hotels and the obscenity of NHS staff working without protective clothing or equipment when dealing with virus victims.

“We have workers side-by-side building luxury hotels when almost every hotel in the land is shut down and in crisis — and building power stations that won’t go online for years,” said Hazards campaign spokeswoman Janet Newsham.

“How can these jobs have been considered essential?

“We are weeks into the pandemic and front-line staff are dying from a negligent government which is failing to provide basic personal protection equipment (PPE), never mind a standard of PPE that would keep all health and care workers and all essential workers safe.”

She called on the government to use “the best possible research and international evidence available” and design “robust” precautions to protect working people from infection.

Condemning the government’s failure on testing, Ms Newsham said: “Continually over the last few weeks government officials have said that testing is coming.

“And weeks before, international experts declared that the only way to win the battle against the virus spread was to test and track. 

“Only this will save the lives of both the front-line workers and the rest of society. We have to attack the spread of the virus and test, track and quarantine is the only way proven way to achieve this.

“There shouldn’t need to be a debate about who is going to receive treatment or not, we should have in place a healthcare system alongside a strategy that protects our most vulnerable.”

The campaign slammed the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for failing to make employers obey laws protecting workers and said: “This must change. 
                                                                                                                      
“The HSE must enforce the law and protect vulnerable groups such as zero-hours workers and the bogus self-employed.

“We need them to close down employers who are putting people’s lives at risk.

“Everyone needs to stand together in the fight to protect workers, not simply because it’s the right thing to do but because it affects us all. Workers’ health is public health.

“When companies subject workers to dangerous conditions and cheat them out of wages, it’s taxpayers who foot the bill.  

“The worst offenders will only change their behaviour when the cost of failing to protect workers outweighs the benefits.

“If we truly want to show our essential workers how much we appreciate their contributions, we need to do more than just applaud them.

“We must have the courage to stand and support them, using every resource we have. It will be for the good of public health too. 

“All risks in the workplace must be controlled and the very least employers should do to protect all workers is to provide the highest level of PPE available in these circumstances.”

The Society of Occupational Medicine said Britain should have aimed for a target of zero work-related fatalities in NHS, essential services and businesses during the pandemic.

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