New official statistics show that the number of workers killed in Britain last year has increased. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has released provisional[i] data for the year April 2010 to March 2011, which estimates the number of workers killed as 171. This marks an increase from the 147 work-related fatalities recorded in the previous year – the lowest number on record[ii].
Despite this increase, however, Britain has had the lowest rate of fatal injuries to workers compared to the four other leading industrial nations in Europe (Germany, France, Spain and Italy) over a six-year period (according to Eurostat figures – http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu).
Whilst fatal injuries are thankfully very rare events, they are most likely to occur in some of the historically most dangerous industries, such as construction, agriculture, manufacturing, and waste and recycling. According to Judith Hackitt, the HSE Chair:
“The increase in the number of deaths in the last year is disappointing, after an all time low last year. However, we must remember that we still have one of the lowest rates of fatal injury anywhere in Europe.
“The fact that 171 people failed to come home from work to their loved ones last year reminds us all of what we are here to do. It is a stark reminder of the need to ensure that health and safety remains focused on the real risks, which exist in workplaces not on trivia and pointless paperwork.
“We all have a role to play – employers, employees and regulators – and leadership is fundamental to maintaining and improving our performance even further. In a world of work which is constantly changing we must all continue to review what we do and how we do it and strive to become even more effective at managing risks which cost lives.”
Employers have a legal responsibility to assess and manage risks in the workplace, regardless of the size of the organisation. Accidents and ill health can ruin lives and damage businesses. Whilst organisations aren’t expected to eliminate all risk, they are required to protect people as far as ‘reasonably practicable’. Employers can seek guidance on this matter from occupational health practitioners by calling the free Health for Work Adviceline (www.health4work.nhs.uk) on 0800 0 77 88 44.
[i] The provisional figures for 2010/11 will be finalised in June 2012 following any necessary adjustments arising from investigations in which new facts can emerge about whether the accident was work-related.