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Has workplace health and safety improved?

View profile for Pauline Smith
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Fines of £2 million for firms involved in death of worker

The HSE will, on December 16th, publish their latest statistics in respect of workplace related accidents, and health and safety at work. We all know that current legislation is designed to keep employees safe in the workplace, and that a responsible employer will be doing all they can in terms of risk assessing tasks, making sure that their employees are well trained, and fully conversant with health and safety rules. 

However, in truth, there are probably a number of employers out there, who are bemoaning the “red tape” that their jobs now involve particularly in respect of completing paperwork, inductions for new employees, organising in house and external training and completing training records, and being trained themselves on how to complete proper risk assessments etc.  So, all of this “extra” work has paid off, hasn’t it?  Surely, the UK is a safe place to work?

Let me give you some statistics for the year March 2020 to March 2021.

How many people were killed in this period, as a result of suffering fatal injuries during the course of their employment?

Answer: 142. That’s right, 142 people were killed as a result of just going into work. It is not surprising that the highest number of deaths were recorded in the construction industry with 29 people losing their lives, closely followed by 34 people in the forestry, farming and fishing sector. 

What are the ages of people who died during this period?

Whilst 41 of those deaths were in the over 60’s bracket, almost 100 people aged between 16 and 59 lost their lives. People not of retirement age, who were simply going to work for the day.

What is the main cause of these fatal injuries?

A staggering 35 people died as a fall from a height, in this period, despite strict legislation being in place in the UK regarding working with ladders, scaffolding etc. 25 people were struck by a moving vehicles, 17 were struck by a moving object, 14 came into contact with moving machine and 14 died as a result of being trapped by something collapsing, or overturning. 

Whilst fatal injuries at work have been on a significant downward trend over recent years, probably due to most employers taking their responsibilities regarding health and safety more seriously, these statistics are now flattening out. Of the millions of people who are of working age in the UK, it could be said that 142 is not a significant amount of deaths, in the greater scheme of things. I completely disagree with this, and doubt that the families and loved ones of those workers who were killed do. Employee health and safety legislation is there for a reason – it is to protect ALL workers – whether working in a high risk environment or carrying out a mundane task.

The HSE publish on their website details of any prosecutions that they bring against negligent employers, and in almost all cases, there is a failure to address safety issues, to plan a job properly or to train staff, or simply cutting corners that lead to fatalities and serious injury in the workplace. Accidents and deaths, which could readily be avoided. Hopefully, the day will come when the statistic for fatal injuries caused during the course of employment is down to zero.

If you know someone who has been injured or has died as a result of an accident in the workplace, please contact our specialist personal injury team on 0161 696 6235 for help and advice.

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