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October 29, 2008

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Fall in workplace injuries and deaths

Reported major injuries at work have declined by about 9 per cent since the start of the decade, according to the HSE’s provisional statistics for 2007/08, which also reveal that workplace deaths fell from 247 to 229 last year.

Work-related ill health has also decreased since the start of the decade but the rate of improvement in this area is not as great as the Executive hoped. In 2007/08, there was a small decline in the number of people suffering from work-related illnesses — from 2.2m the previous year, and the number of days lost due to injury and ill health also fell — from 36m to 34m over the same period. However, the annual number of mesothelioma deaths continued to rise, with 2056 cases in 2006.

The downward trend in workplace deaths and injuries means the HSE is on course to meet its Revitalising Health and Safety target to reduce the incidence rate of fatal and major injury by 10 per cent between 1999/2000 and 2009/10. It has also met its Public Service Agreement target to reduce the same incidence rate by 3 per cent between 2004/05 and 2007/08.

However, it is unlikely to meet its other Revitalising targets to reduce the incidence rate of work-related ill health, and the number of working days lost due to injury and ill health.

Although welcoming the falls shown by the figures, HSE chair Judith Hackitt called for more improvement.

She said: “Of particular concern are the agriculture, construction, and waste and recycling industries. I am also concerned that slips and trips — which can have an enormous impact on peoples’ lives — are still not reducing. HSE is developing a new strategy that seeks to renew commitment from all those involved in health and safety to tackle these challenges, and more.”

Warning employers not to cut back on health and safety as the country heads into recession, Hackitt added: “Health and safety contributes positively to competitiveness and should not be sacrificed in times of financial pressure.”

The TUC also applauded the fall in deaths and serious injuries, citing greater enforcement as the reason for the decline. However, HSE enforcement notices, offences prosecuted by the watchdog, and resulting convictions all fell in comparison with 2006/07.

Said TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber: “Recent figures suggest that greater enforcement of the law has reduced injuries at work. So, we clearly need more enforcement — particularly in areas of occupational health, such as tackling RSIs, back pain and stress, as these make up three quarters of work-related ill health and are workers’ main safety concerns.

“However, greater enforcement can only happen if the Government increases resources to local authorities and the HSE for inspection and enforcement activities.”

The statistics can be viewed at the link below.

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