Unite is warning that workers’ lives are being placed at risk due to a sharp fall in the number of frontline health and safety inspectors. Figures obtained by the union in a freedom of information request reveal that since 2010 there has been a 25 per cent reduction in the number of Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors.

In 2010 there were 1,311 frontline inspectors, but by 31 December 2016 that number had reduced to just 980, the union says. The union warns HSE “has been in the frontline of the Conservative’s obsession with cutting so called ‘red tape’.” By the end of this parliament its budget will be 46 per cent lower than in 2010.

Unite acting general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “HSE inspectors play a vital role in keeping workers safe. Rogue bosses who are prepared to break safety laws, are only kept in check by the fear of being caught and punished. Fewer inspectors mean more bosses willing to risk workers’ lives to boost profits.”

She added: “It is clear that the HSE is being denied the resources to undertake its role properly. In these circumstances, it is more important than ever that union safety reps are given the training, support and time to conduct their duties and keep their fellow workers safe.

“However rather than boosting the rights and powers of safety reps the Conservative government has been intent on making their role even more difficult. All political parties need to give a pledge to make workplace safety a priority and commit to giving the HSE the proper resources to undertake its role effectively and ensure workers are safe at work.”