The coalition's exemption of key sectors from proactive health and safety inspections is putting workers' lives at risk, a new study has warned.
The government announced in 2011 that a number of so-called "low risk" sectors would be exempt from unannounced inspections.
Campaigners and unions have long warned that cuts to health and safety legislation and inspections would jeopardise worker safety.
Now new research has shown that since the exemption directive came into force over half of workplace deaths have occurred in sectors exempt from inspection.
Stirling University researcher Professor Rory O'Neill used Freedom of Information requests and HSE reports to compile a list of sectors excluded from unannounced HSE inspections.
He found that there were 258 fatalities in HSE-enforced workplaces from 1 April 2011 to 31 October 2012, with 137 deaths, or 53 per cent of total deaths, occurring in uninspected sectors.
In sectors still subject to unannounced preventive inspections there were 104 deaths or 40 per cent of total deaths.
There were 78 construction deaths in this period, 30 per cent of the total.
Deaths in sectors not subject to preventive HSE inspections make up 76 per cent of the 180 non-construction sector deaths.
According to the research, reactive inspections following reported injuries have also plummeted, with only 5 per cent of "major injuries" now investigated by HSE.
The government has claimed that no sector is immune from inspection but Professor O'Neill's research suggests there are at least 37 designated "sectors without inspectors."
Professor O'Neill said: "Whether your job is making people better or making plastics, don't expect a government safety inspector to call.
"The majority of workplace deaths now occur in sectors officially excused from unannounced inspections by the safety regulator.
"On UK government orders the HSE has designated most industrial sectors, from farms to footwear, either too safe for them to bother or just not worth the effort even if they are shockingly dangerous."
Professor O'Neill also found the situation in Scotland was worse than the overall picture. Of 33 worker fatalities in the same period, 20, or 60 per cent, were in uninspected sectors.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: "In the past too many unnecessary inspections were carried out on businesses. Our approach gets the balance right."
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