Workplace fatalities rise by 11%

The number of staff killed in work-related accidents rose by 11% in the past year to 241, according to latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The provisional figures are a deep disappointment to the HSE, as the number of deaths in 2005-06 (217) was the lowest figure on record.

Key to the 2006-07 increase was a 25% rise in construction deaths from 60 to 77, as reported in last month’s Occupational Health. This was the highest number of fatal injuries for a single industry, and accounted for 31% of all fatal injuries to workers.

There were 85 deaths in the service industries, 35 in manufacturing, 34 in agriculture, forestry and fishing, and just 10 in the extractive and utility supply industries.

HSE chief executive Geoffrey Podger said waste and recycling industries also posed a particular challenge at the moment, as did the protection of vulnerable staff, particularly migrant workers.

“In the past year, we have approved 25% more prosecutions than the year before, and our inspectors have served 1,000 more enforcement notices,” he said. “No-one should believe that they can get away with serious breaches of health and safety.”

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health described the fatality increase as “shocking”, while TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said the figures were “dreadful”.

In response, the government has brought forward its long-awaited Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill.

And work and pensions secretary Peter Hain, who described the figures as “unacceptable”, has invited employers, unions and other organisations to a forum this month [September] to focus on ways to improve the construction industry’s record.

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