Launching the latest work-related fatal injury statistics for the United Kingdom on July26, Health and Safety Commission (HSC) chair Sir Bill Callaghan said the loss of 241 lives is unacceptable and issued a fresh challenge to industry to place safety at the top of its priorities and do more to protect the workforce.
"It is disappointing to see that the overall number of deaths has risen,” said Callaghan. “We have worked hard with industry and trade unions over the past few years to bring the number down. Behind every one of these numbers was a man or a woman, with a life, friends and family. Despite all the negative stories written and told about over-bureaucracy and banning 'fun', in reality trying to stop the tragedies we are talking about today is what health and safety is all about."
The latest statistics presented on July 26 suggest that the provisional figure for the number of workers fatally injured in 2006-2007 is 241, and corresponds to a rate of fatal injury of 0.80 per 100,000 workers. In 2005-2006, the finalized figures were 217 and 0.72, respectively; these were the lowest annual figures on record. This indicates an overall increase of 11 percent since the last year. Although a long-term downward trend is still clear, the rate of decrease has slowed over the last 15 years and there has been very little change in the overall rate over the last five years.
Of the main industrial sectors, construction has the highest total of fatal injuries and accounts for 31 percent of all fatal injuries to workers. Other industries such as agriculture, waste and recycling and issues such as protection of vulnerable workers, particularly migrant workers also pose significant challenges.
HSE's internal monitoring systems had signaled an increase in fatalities in construction and so the unvalidated statistics collected through the year has led to plans to address the areas of concern. To tackle the level of fatalities in the construction sector, HSE confirmed continuing focus on its inspection program targeting the refurbishment and repair sectors as these sectors in particular have seen an increase in fatal injuries. HSE will also be working very closely with stakeholders to address the problem to rising fatalities.
HSE chief executive Geoffrey Podger added to this message, saying, "Those who are putting the lives of their workforce at risk should know that HSE takes this very seriously. In the past year, we have approved 25 percent more prosecutions than the year before and our inspectors have served 1,000 more enforcement notices. No one should believe that they can get away with serious breaches of health and safety."
At the end of a briefing event, Callaghan reiterated his message, "I have to remind you that safety is ultimately the responsibility of those who manage and direct companies and those who work for them. Today's statistics are disappointing and distressing, but improvements can still be made. They must be made. HSC/E is taking action. The ball now lies firmly in the industry's court."
In many areas there have been some real improvements compared with statistics from last year, and despite the figures announced on July 26, the long-term fatal-injury trends are still downward. However, the real challenge for HSE and the industry now is to move on from the plateau of the last five years, and to renew its efforts and revive the major gains made in previous years.
Industry Sector Workers Rate per 100,000
Agriculture, forestry and fishing 34 8.1
Manufacturing 35 1.1
Construction 77 3.7
Service Industries 85 0.35
Extractive and utility supply 10 6.0
Overall 241 0.80