Workplace deaths and injuries in the UK fall over past year

The number of people killed or injured at work over the past year has fallen, according to official statistics.

Figures released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed workplace fatal injuries fell from 233 in 2007-08 to a record low of 180 in the 12 months ending March 2009. There was also a reduction of more than 7,000 in the number of workplace injuries classified as serious or incurring more than three days absence from work.

Across England, Scotland and Wales, 29.3 million working days (equivalent to 1.24 days per worker) were lost to injury and ill health last year, compared with 33.9 million in 2007-08.

The construction sector accounted for most of the fatalities at work – nearly one-third – followed by agriculture.

HSE chair Judith Hackitt said this made the UK one of the safest places to work in the EU. “It is really encouraging to see these improvements in the numbers of deaths, injuries and cases of ill health at work over the past year,” she said.

“Protecting people from harm caused by work remains important, irrespective of the economic climate. Having shown that Britain can achieve a performance that compares favourably with other industrialised nations as we entered the global recession, the challenge now is to maintain that improvement as we move towards recovery and increased activity in some economic sectors.”

The number of people estimated to be suffering from work-related ill health fell by 79,000 to 1.2 million, resulting in three million fewer working days being lost to ill health – a total of 24.6 million.

The HSE said it continued to take a tough line with firms who put workers at risk by breaking safety legislation. It brought 1,231 offences to court in 2008-09, and issued 8,054 enforcement notices.

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