HC Deb 11 November 1991 vol 198 cc412-3W
Mr. Cryer

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what is the current budget for overseas travel for the Health and Safety Executive; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Forth

Health and Safety Executive's expenditure on overseas travel is not a separate item, but is provided from within a general HSE travel and subsistence budget which takes account of the need for, for example, work in connection with EC matters. Some of HSE's overseas travel is reimbursed by the European Commission; that carried out by the nuclear installations inspectorate is charged out to the nuclear industry.

Mr. Cryer

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will state the number of health and safety inspectors employed by the executive in each division; how many are full time and part-time; what vacancies exist in each category; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Forth

The information requested is as follows, at 1 November 1991:

HSE Division Number of Inspectors
Field Operations Division 914.5
Nuclear Installations Inspectorate 164.0
Technology and Health Sciences Division 136.5
Inspectorate of Mines 38.5
Offshore Safety Division 57.0
Railway Inspectorate 28.0
Resources and Planning Division 8.0
Safety and General Policy Division 12.5
Special Hazards Division 16.0
Health Policy Division 9.0
Executive Support Branch 13.0
Hazardous Installations Policy Branch 6.0
Research and Laboratory Services Division 1.0

Of these, 1,387 worked full time and 34 part time, part-timers being counted as half units. Targets for each inspector category are set for the end of the planning year. The number of vacancies calculated against the 1 April 1992 targets are given in the table:

Inspector occupational grouping Number of vacancies
Agricultural 0.0
Factory 17.0
Specialist 0.5
Mines 0.0
Quarries 4.0
Nuclear Installations 10.0
Railway 7.0
Offshore Safety 61.0

Considerable efforts are being made to fill inspector vacancies, particularly those for offshore safety inspectors. Thirty-four successful candidates have joined or are shortly expected to join HSE as offshore safety inspectors from a recruitment competition earlier this year. Two competitions are currently under way and 19 further successful candidates have already been selected from these. There are currently 12 successful candidates for factory inspector posts waiting to join the organisation and applicants for factory and nuclear installations inspector jobs will shortly be interviewed.

Mr. Cryer

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will obtain from the Health and Safety Executive information about the activities of the executive in connection with the crane failure at St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly, on 13 July 1991; and what steps have been taken to prosecute those persons responsible for overloading the crane and causing a crane to be operated without an effective safe load indicator.

Mr. Forth

The Health and Safety Executive was informed about the accident by police a few hours after it happened on Saturday 13 July.

The police told HSE's Plymouth office that the crane which had overturned while offloading a cargo container was in a dangerous condition with its rear wheels in the air and the jib resting on the jetty and the sea bed. HSE's inspector wished to visit the scene of the accident directly, but was prevented from doing so by heavy fog which had led to the suspension of commercial sailings and flights to the island. The inspector was not in the circumstances able to visit the scene until Monday 15 July.

Police advice was that it was imperative that the crane should be made safe as the area surrounding it could not be closed off. HSE's inspector therefore briefed the police by telephone on how to ensure the crane's safe retrieval and the recording of the information needed to establish the cause of the accident.

Making the crane safe involved some dismantling, and during this process part of the jib became detached and sank to the sea bed. This loss of part of the jib and damage to other parts of the crane sustained during the overturning meant that it was not possible for FISE to gather the evidence needed to establish if the crane was overloaded or not, and thus to mount any prosecution in this case. An automatic safeload indicator was, however, seen on the crane.