Workplace fatalities on the wane as HSE figures reach record low

The number of people killed at work has fallen sharply in the past year and is now at a record low, according to the latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The statistics for April 2008 to March this year showed 180 fatal workplace injuries, compared with 233 in 2007-08.

A total of 29.3 million working days were lost to injury or ill health, or the equivalent of 1.24 days per worker, compared with 33.9 million in 2007-08, it added.

The number of workplace injuries classified as serious or requiring more than three days’ absence from work also fell by 7,000.

In total, 28,692 workers were reported as being injured in 2008-09 (or 94.8 per 100,000), compared with 29,389 in 2007-08 (96.5 per 100,000), said the HSE.

There had been a “statistically significant” fall in the estimated number of self-reported injuries, down from 299,000 in 2007-08 to 246,000 in the past year, with firms losing 1.6 million fewer working days through all types of injury, or a total of 4.7 million.

The number of people estimated to be suffering from work-related ill health fell by 79,000 in 2008-09 to 1.2 million, meaning three million fewer working days were lost to ill health in 2008-09, or 24.6 million, it added.

HSE chair Judith Hackitt said: “Having shown that Great 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.”

But the HSE has also warned that a new generation of building trade workers could be at risk from asbestos unless the industry improved its record.

A quarter of the 4,000 or so people dying from asbestos-related diseases each year in the UK were tradesmen such as joiners, electricians and plumbers, with 20 losing their lives each week.

In November, the HSE launched a £1.2m, month-long campaign to raise awareness among the UK’s 1.8 million tradesmen.

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