Statistics show no improvement in workplace fatality rates

Official statistics have shown that the number of workers fatally injured in Britain last year remains largely unchanged on the year before.

A total of 173 workers were killed during the period April 2011 to March 2012, according to provisional figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The rate of fatal injury also remained unchanged, at 0.6 injuries per 100,000 workers.

Construction remained the key “black spot”, with 49 workers killed, at a rate of 2.3 per 100,000, against an average of 59 deaths per year over the past five years, and a decrease from the 50 deaths reported in 2010/11. In agriculture, the figure was 33 fatal injuries at a rate of 9.7 deaths per 100,000, an increase from the 30 deaths recorded in 2010/11.

There were five fatal injuries to waste and recycling workers recorded, down from the nine deaths recorded in 2010/11, the HSE added.

HSE chair Judith Hackitt said: “We want employers to focus on the real risks that continue to cause death and serious injury. [We are] working very hard to make it easier for people to understand what they need to do and to focus on the real priorities. Protecting people from death and serious injury at work should be at the heart of what we all do.”

The figures also show that Britain has the lowest rate of fatal injuries to workers among the five leading industrial nations in Europe, which also include Germany, France, Spain and Italy, the HSE said.

Richard Evens, commercial training director at St John Ambulance, said the fact that figures had not risen was “encouraging” but it was disappointing they had not fallen.

“If UK employers are to reduce the number of tragic workplace incidents, it is essential that they have good health and safety processes in place, including providing basic first-aid training to staff,” he added.

Neal Stone, director of policy and communications at the British Safety Council, added that it was important not to overlook the “thousands” of other people who died in 2011/12 as a result of work-related diseases and work-related road traffic accidents.

Roger Bibbings, occupational safety adviser at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, agreed that it was important to remember that workplace accidents represent just a small part of the overall burden of work-related death.

“There is also the largely unseen burden of harm due to work-related health damage,” he added.

And the construction union UCATT described the fatality figures for its industry as “not good news in any way”.

Steve Murphy, general secretary, said: “Deaths remain far too high, especially given the declining number of people working in the industry.”

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