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Historic drop in workplace deaths

01 July 2010

RoSPA has today greeted a record low in the number of people killed at work - but is cautioning against complacency.

The Health and Safety Executive’s provisional data - which shows 151 workers were killed in Britain between April 1, 2009, and March 31, 2010 - proves, says RoSPA, what can be done when preventive effort is stepped up. But at the same time health and safety professionals need to place these figures in perspective. That’s because the number of deaths reported by the HSE, which fell from 178 in the previous 12 months, relate solely to notifiable incidents - those that employers must by law report.
Roger Bibbings, RoSPA’s occupational safety adviser, said the decreasing number must not foster a false sense of security because it accounts for less than two per cent of some 12,000 early deaths every year due to past exposure to hazardous agents in the workplace.
He said: “The fall in the number of deaths is obviously to be welcomed and reflects the enormous effort that has gone on to ensure safer working - especially in the most hazardous sectors. Some of the reduction could also be attributed to a slowdown in activity because of recession. We must not forget too, that the number of notifiable deaths is still less than two per cent of the total number of people who die as a result of being damaged while at work.
The majority of work-related deaths are due to health damage and often occur sometime after people leave employment. As such, we must keep the focus firmly on health hazards, particularly occupational carcinogens, asbestos and other harmful factors like noise and vibration. And we must not overlook the spectre of work-related road accidents. In an age where our economy has become increasingly road-mobile and service-based, it’s important to recognise that five times as many workers are killed in work-related road accidents than they are in notifiable incidents at the place of work.”
According to the HSE, large falls have been recorded in some of the other historically most dangerous industries in Britain:
 41 fatal injuries to construction workers were recorded - a rate of 2.0 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared to an average of 66 deaths in the past five years and a fall from the 52 deaths (and rate of 2.4) recorded in 2008/09.
 42 fatal injuries to services workers were recorded, a rate of 0.2 deaths per 100,000, compared to an average of 72 deaths in the past five years and a fall from the 62 deaths (and rate of 0.3) recorded in 2008/09.
 24 fatal injuries to manufacturing workers were recorded, a rate of 0.9 deaths per 100,000, compared to an average of 38 deaths in the past five years and a fall from 33 deaths (and rate of 1.1) in 2008/09.
However, there was a the significant rise in the number of deaths in the agricultural sector - climbing from 25 in 2008-09 to 38 in 2009-10. HSE Chair, Judith Hackitt, said: "We need the agriculture industry to recognise that it can address the problem and learn the lessons from these sectors. Improvements can be achieved even in any industry sector with leadership and by focusing on the priority issues."
The new figures show that compared with the latest data available for the four other leading industrial nations in Europe - Germany, France, Spain and Italy - Great Britain has, for more than the last six years, had the lowest rate of fatal injuries.


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