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October 28, 2009

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New figures show overall improvement in UK health and safety record

Britain is one of the safest places to work in the EU, the HSE is claiming, following the release of its latest statistics on the number of people killed, injured, or made ill at work last year.

The figures for April 2008 to March 2009 confirm the provisional total of work-related deaths released in June as 180 — the lowest level ever recorded — but also reveal a reduction of 7000 in the number of serious and over-three-day injuries, and a 13-per-cent drop in working days lost to injury and ill health, compared with the previous year’s figures. (Click here for our original report on the provisional figures.)

Britain now has the lowest rate of fatal injuries in the EU, at 1.3 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared with the EU average of 2.5.

Acknowledging that the recession — and consequent fall in activity levels and the number of people in work — has partly contributed to these figures, HSE chair Judith Hackitt emphasised that the challenge now is to maintain the downward trends as the economy improves. She said: “Protecting people from harm caused by work remains important, irrespective of the economic climate. History suggests that when we start moving back into economic growth the rate of work-related injuries will tend to increase. Preventing history from repeating itself is a challenge facing everyone with a stake in health and safety in the workplace — regulators, employers and employees alike.”

IOSH president Nattasha Freeman welcomed the fall in fatalities and injuries but urged the HSE not to be complacent: “It is critical that the HSE don’t take their foot off the accelerator — there are still far too many accidents and cases of workplace ill health in this country, which could be prevented from happening in the first place. We need to keep focusing on the industries of greatest risk, like construction and agriculture, and ensure that the number of accidents in these sectors continues to decline.”
She added: “We also want government to press on with plans to get a million people off incapacity benefit and back into the workplace, because we know that good work is good for you. We also need to encourage employers to promote well-being and help employees achieve a work-life balance — that’s the only way to tackle Britain’s worker ill-health epidemic.”

Other positive downward developments revealed by the statistics include:

  • Major injuries — down to 28,692 from 29,389 in 2008/08 (a rate of 94.8 per 100,000 workers);
  • Self-reported injuries — down by 53,000 to 246,000;
  • Days lots to all types of injury — down by 1.6 million to 4.7 million;
  • Workers suffering from ill health — down by 79,000 to 1.2 million;
  • Days lost to ill health — down by 3 million to 24.6 million.

To view the statistics in more detail, click here.

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