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Workplace fatalities falling

Katie Coyne12/07/2017 - 17:14

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Highest fatalities in construction
Highest fatalities in construction

Fatalities in the workplace are down but the downward trend may be slowing according to the latest figures published by the Health and Safety Executive.

Provisional annual data for work-related fatal accidents revealed that 137 workers were fatally injured between April 2016 and March 2017, which is a rate of 0.43 per 100,000 workers.

This is the second lowest year on record and there has been a long-term downward trend in the number of fatal injuries to workers. Over the past 20 years they have halved, however, the trend does show signs of levelling. 

The HSE figures also showed that a quarter of fatalities were to workers over 60 despite this group comprising 10 per cent of the workforce. Construction, agriculture and the waste and recycling industry were the sectors with the highest numbers of fatalities.

HSE chair Martin Temple said: ‘Every fatality is a tragic event that should not happen. While we are encouraged by this improvement on the previous year, we continue unwaveringly on our mission to prevent injury, death and ill health by protecting people and reducing risks.’

He added: ‘We deal daily with the causes and consequences of work-related deaths, injuries and ill health. Today’s updated figures continue to inform our understanding of which areas we need to target.

‘We concentrate our interventions where we know we can have the biggest impact. We hold duty holders accountable for managing the risks they create in the workplace. This benefits workers, business performance, the economy and wider society alike.

Across construction 30 fatal injuries were recorded and although this accounts for the largest share of fatalies it is the lowest number on record for the sector. The annual average for the past five years is 39. In agriculture, there were 27 fatal injuries recorded while in waste and recycling 14 fatal injuries were recorded.

RoSPA’s occupational safety and health policy adviser Dr Karen McDonnell said: 'RoSPA very much believes that accidents in the workplace don’t have to happen. You can learn from them and undertake effective change – you can prevent new people from having old accidents.

Asked whether funding cuts to council budgets and public services might be contributing to a slowing down in the reduction of fatalities, she added: ‘The more resources effectively targeted has the potential to make a difference'.

Dr McDonnell said the increasing number of older workers was an ‘emerging issue’ for the health and safety community and that there were ‘age related challenges but there are also potential benefits of intergenerational working’.

Sentencing guidelines introduced last year have seen an increasing number of wrong doers seeing jail time. The yearly average number of prison sentences for health and safety related offences before the new guidelines was less than five a year but now it’s around three a month.

‘It’s refreshing that the sentencing guidelines are being used to good effect and the need for close attention to health and safety is seen,’ said Dr McDonnell. But she added that health and safety needed to also be seen as an element that enabled ‘success’ both in business and in the wider community, in families also. 

The HSE also releases the figures for the number of people known to have died from the asbestos-related cancer, mesothelioma, in 2015.

Where deaths can be counted directly, mesothelioma contracted through past exposure to asbestos killed 2,542 in Great Britain in 2015 compared to 2,519 in 2014. Annual death rates are expected to reduce after this current decade as current figures are related to exposures before 1980.


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