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June 30, 2010

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Britain records its lowest-ever number of worker deaths

The number of people killed at work in Britain fell to a record low of 151 in 2009/2010 – down from 178 the previous year, and 31 per cent lower than the average figure for the last five years.

In what could be seen as a message to the new government and its advisor Lord Young, who is currently carrying out a review of health and safety, HSE chair Judith Hackitt said the reduction means “continuing to strive to drive these numbers down further – not getting complacent about what we’ve collectively achieved, and recognising the new challenges as we emerge from the recession”.

The provisional figures cover the period between 1 April 2009 and 31 March 2010 and reveal that agriculture was the most dangerous industry. It recorded a massive 52-per-cent increase in fatalities, with 38 workers losing their lives on farms last year compared with the record low of 25 deaths in 2008/09.

The National Farmers’ Union is to call for an industry coalition to address the situation. Speaking yesterday, NFU president Peter Kendall said: “The NFU notes the latest workplace fatality statistics with considerable sadness, as there is a tragic story that sits behind each one of the numbers. Any fatal accident or serious injury has a devastating impact on the families and businesses involved.

“In the coming months, we will establish an industry coalition with our partners and through a concerted effort will look to spread the health and safety message. We have already started to remind our members to take care but, as harvest gets underway, we will step this up and continue to support the HSE’s efforts to minimise farm deaths.”

The construction industry – traditionally on a par with agriculture as the most dangerous sector – saw a significant fall in the number of deaths on sites last year. A total of 41 fatal injuries was recorded, down from 52 deaths the previous year and way below the average for the last five years of 66.

Alan Ritchie, general secretary of construction union UCATT, said: “The reduction in construction deaths is good news. Yet it must never be forgotten that each death is an individual tragedy.”

Manufacturing improved also, with 24 fatalities in 2009/2010 compared with 33 the previous year. In the services sector, 42 workers died – 20 fewer than in 2008/09, and 30 fewer than the five-year average of 72. Steve Pointer, head of health and safety policy at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, commented: “”We are encouraged that the number of fatalities in manufacturing fell to an all time low of 24. Many directors, managers, employee representatives and health and safety advisors throughout manufacturing deserve credit for their sustained hard work in difficult economic times.€ᄄ€ᄄ

“These figures are welcome but there is no room for complacency. As the industry continues to recover from recession, good, practical management of risk is even more important.”

While the HSE emphasised the contribution of “good practice, leadership and employee engagement” in the record low figures it was also pragmatic about the reasons for the improved performance, acknowledging that the recession has resulted in lower levels of activity in some sectors and a decrease in the number of new, inexperienced recruits.

The Executive would not explicitly comment on any likely effect the statistics may have on Lord Young’s ongoing review but it agreed that now is not the time to ease off the throttle. A spokesperson told SHP: “Of course this is a welcome reduction in the number of work-related deaths but the evidence on economic cycles shows that while there are fewer fatalities during recessions, as we move into recovery the injury rate will rise. We cannot be complacent – we don’t want to be talking this time next year about an increase in fatalities, so we need to be extra vigilant, not less so, for when the recovery happens.”

Alan Ritchie was more forthright, saying Lord Young’s review could lead to a weakening of safety standards. He added: “Prior to the General Election the Conservatives proposed introducing private safety audits. Once a company had obtained an audit, HSE inspectors would be barred from sites unless an emergency occurred. In construction, an emergency is likely to mean a worker being killed or maimed.€ᄄ €ᄄ

“The challenge for everyone concerned about safety is to ensure that the number of deaths in construction continues to be reduced as the industry recovers and activity increases. Rather than looking to reduce safety provisions the Government should be ensuring workers are safe by increasing the number of inspections and enforcement activity.”

More information on the statistics can be found at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/fatals.htm
 

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Craig
Craig
14 years ago

It would be interesting to overlay the employment figures over the last 20 years on to the number of deaths. I bet there’s a correlation between high unemployment and low deaths.

Dave
Dave
14 years ago

It’s encouraging to see the numbers of fatalities across most industry sectors is on the decline and I’m pleased that the HSE recognise that the recession rather than enhanced safety measures and procedures are responsible.

Organisations still need to make H&S an integral part of the work process to protect the people they are responsible for and not be clouded by the false impression that we are a safer society.

Hopefully we will not have to wait until Directors receive lengthy prison sentences to make staff at all levels realise their responsibilities.

[email protected]

Janette
Janette
14 years ago

As a H&S / human factors practitioner specialising in human behaviour / safety culture, I have real concerns over the Lord Young review and the message that it appears to be presenting. We know that safety ‘culture’ has to start at the top. We should be extremely proud of the achievements in our profession and it should be hailed as a huge success. The latest figures on worker death reduction is a great piece of information that we should use wisely.

Jay
Jay
14 years ago

The detailed fatality stats released also includes the Fatality Incidence Rate per 100000 workers, therefore the rate data indeed accounts for the workers employed.

Refer to:-
Full details at:-
http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/fatalinjuries.htm

Press Release at:-
http://www.hse.gov.uk/press/2010/hse-fatals0910.htm

Fatality Details at:-
http://www.hse.gov.uk/foi/fatalities/2009-10.htm

John
John
14 years ago

How do the reductions tally with the reduced working hours brought about by the recession?

Khoyle21
Khoyle21
14 years ago

I find it incredible that such statistics are published as bare numbers. We all know (as do the satistical staff at HSE) that you must relate the fatalities and injuries to the numbers employed or working hours etc – ie publish as a rate so that some meaningful comparison can be made frm year to year. Without that, the figure is useless and we don’t know if fatalaties/injuries are decreasing or increasing. At a time when the cost of H&S is under pressure and government are seeking reform (cuts), this is a most unwelcome headline and does not tell the… Read more »

Markhodgson211
Markhodgson211
14 years ago

Less worker deaths or better medical health care?

Mschilling
Mschilling
14 years ago

Who needs the antis like the Daily Mail when we can’t even put a proportion of these great results sown to our own efforts?
The fall is not completely due to the recession, partly yes – but not completely.
We make a difference.

Phillip802
Phillip802
14 years ago

Isn’t the real reason for the large reduction in fatalities the recession? This is especially so in construction with a record low levels of new buildss/refurbs leading to far fewer total work hours. The figures have fallen despite the HSE, bnot because of their work. Similarly manufacturing fatalities – our manufacturing sector is a a record low level.

When the economy picks up, especially construction, we will see a rise in fatalities.

Yaxley
Yaxley
14 years ago

Lets stop kidding our selves yes may have been a drop but considering the most dangerous area ie construction saw thwe number of people employed fall by aropund 50% this is surely an increase not decrease, lets stop putting spin on stories