U.K. Workplace Fatality Rates Rising

The latest U.K. work-related fatal injury statistics were released on Aug. 1 and showed a rise in workplace fatalities, prompting Health and Safety Commission (HSC) Chair Sir Bill Callaghan to call the loss of 241 lives "unacceptable" and causing him to issue a fresh challenge to industry to place safety at the top of its priorities and do more to protect the workforce.

"It is disappointing to see that the overall number of deaths has risen," said Callaghan. "We have worked hard with industry and trade unions over the past few years to bring the number down. Behind every one of these numbers was a man or a woman, with a life, friends and family. Despite all the negative stories written and told about over-bureaucracy and banning ‘fun,’ in reality, trying to stop the tragedies we are talking about today is what health and safety is all about.”

The latest statistics suggest that the provisional figure for the number of workers fatally injured in 2006/07 is 241, which corresponds to a rate of fatal injury of 0.80 per 100 000 workers. In 2005/06, the finalized figures were 217 and 0.72 respectively, the were the lowest annual figures on record. This indicates an overall increase of 11 percent over last year. Although a long-term downward trend is still clear, the rate of decrease has slowed over the last 15 years and there has been very little change in the overall rate over the last 5 years.

Construction has the highest total of fatal injuries and accounts for 31 percent of all fatal injuries to workers. Other industries such as agriculture and waste and recycling also have high fatality rates.

HSE’s internal monitoring systems signaled an increase in fatalities in construction and the unvalidated statistics collected through the year has led to plans to address the areas of concern. HSE plans to continue its focus on the inspection program targeting the refurbishment and repair sectors, as these sectors in particular have seen an increase in fatal injuries.

“Those who are putting the lives of their workforce at risk should know that HSE takes this very seriously," said HSE Chief Executive Geoffrey Podger. "In the past year, we have approved 25 percent more prosecutions than the year before and our inspectors have served 1,000 more enforcement notices. No one should believe that they can get away with serious breaches of health and safety.”

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