Health and Safety Executive confirms rise in worker fatalities

The number of people being killed at work rose sharply between April 2010 and March 2011, latest statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have shown.

The jump to 171 workers fatally injured, up from 147 the previous year, bucks the trend of fatalities gradually declining year by year.

There was better news, however, when it came to numbers being injured or made unwell, with these totals continuing to diminish.

Between April 2010 and March 2011 there were 24,726 major injuries reported, such as amputations, fractures and burns, at a rate of 99 injuries per 100,000 workers – compared with 26,268 in 2009/10, said the HSE. Another 90,653 other injuries serious enough to keep people off work for four or more days were reported – a rate of 363.1 injuries per 100,000 workers – down from 96,427 the previous year.

An estimated 1.2 million people said that they were suffering from an illness caused or made worse by their work, down from 1.3 million in 2009/10. Of these, 500,000 were new illnesses occurring in that year, added the HSE.

HSE chair Judith Hackitt said: “Britain can be proud that it has one of the best health and safety records in Europe but, as the increase in the number of fatalities makes clear, we can never let up in our commitment to addressing the serious risks which continue to cause death and injury in workplaces.”

The construction sector (173.2 major injuries per 100,000 employees) and agricultural industry (221.9 major injuries per 100,000 employees) continued to report the highest levels of work-related injuries, with disproportionately high numbers of incidents.

The toll of injury and ill health resulted in 26.4 million working days being lost in 2010/11, an average of 15 days per case – 22.1 million to ill health and 4.4 million to injury – the HSE added.

Alex Botha, chief executive of the British Safety Council, said that the figures showed the need for continued investment by employers in workplace health programmes and developing high-quality risk management skills.

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