Workplace deaths increase by 16% in Coalition government’s first year

workplaceThe number of people killed at work in Britain last year rose by 16 per cent, prompting renewed calls on the Government to rethink its strategy to reduce health and safety activity and resources.

Provisional figures released by the HSE yesterday (28 June) revealed that 171 workers died in 2010/11 – up from the record low of 147 deaths in 2009/10. The construction industry recorded 50 deaths among its workers – an increase of 22 per cent on last year’s total of 41 fatalities. In the agriculture sector, which, along with construction, is traditionally the most dangerous in which to work, deaths fell from 39 last year to 34 in 2010/11.

HSE chair Judith Hackitt admitted that the increase was “disappointing” but was keen to emphasise that Britain still has one of the lowest rates of fatal injury anywhere in Europe. Calling on all stakeholders to continue to focus on “real risks and not on trivia and pointless paperwork”, she said: “We all have a role to play – employers, employees and regulators – and leadership is fundamental to maintaining and improving our performance even further.”

General Secretary, Brendan Barber: TUC , while agreeing that the responsibility for the rise in fatalities “must be placed at the door of negligent employers”, was adamant that more needs to be done by the Government to ensure workers are protected.

His comments were echoed by IOSH, which said that as the economy recovers and industry picks up it is “essential” to maintain inspection levels, increase awareness and ensure access to reliable information and advice. Head of policy and public affairs Richard Jones commented:

“We are disappointed and concerned with the overall increase in fatalities, particularly the growth in the construction and waste and recycling sectors. Cuts mustn’t cost lives and one death is too many.”

The Hazard Campaign said: “Nationally, there were 47 deaths in the services sector, 34 in agriculture, and 27 in manufacturing – all sectors that will soon be free of unannounced, proactive inspections that spot hazards before they kill someone, but which [Employment minister] Chris Grayling has scrapped.” However, the minister countered with the assertion that “the reforms will ensure that action is better targeted on those who irresponsibly put workers and the public at risk”. The statistics can be viewed on the HSE website at www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/fatals.htm

Stephen Smith. Director of Sphere Risk Health & Safety Management Ltd states “the 35% cut in HSE funding by the present Coalition allied with the previous Governments roll back of funding is starting to highlight some alarming trends, it will not be long before we are back to pre 2000 fatality figures. Its about time everybody understood that these statistics are people who have families and loved ones, and we the Tax Payer pick up over 80% of the total costs of any workplace accident, not the reckless employer.”

If you have a safety related question please email steve@sphererhsm.co.uk or sign up to our regular twitter feed @sphererhsm

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