Community delegates warned today that more workers in dangerous sectors will be injured or killed because of government attacks on health and safety regulations and inspections.
Corby speaker Andy Trigg slammed the savage budget cuts imposed on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), warning that this would reduce workplace inspections and lead to more deaths in sectors such as steel and manufacturing.
The government is slashing the HSE budget by 35 per cent and reducing the number of inspectors by a third - an estimated 11,000 a year.
"Inspectors' powers will be spread so thinly that they no longer pose a credible threat to employers," Mr Trigg warned.
HSE recorded 152 work-related deaths in 2009-10, including 25 in the manufacturing industry.
This is 31 per cent lower than the average for the past five years but delegates feared the cuts would reverse the trend.
Matthey Royston Works delegate Chris Rice said workplace injuries were 24 per cent lower in unionised workplaces.
"We must use our strength to resist any changes that will put our members at risk," he said.
Roundwood delegate Tarrick Saleh said safety training provided by employers such as Tata was so poor that it left reps "feeling very disenchanted and some have even quit."
He called on the union's leadership to organise more education and training for workplace safety reps, adding: "The steel industry is a very dangerous place to work."
Executive committee speaker Rob Sneddon highlighted the union's "impressive" record on recruiting and training reps but acknowledged that more could be done.
Community has one safety representative for every 30 members and one fully qualified official for every 50 members.