Safety watchdog the Health and Safety Executive is marking its 40th anniversary with an appeal for businesses to make the wellbeing of workers their top priority for the new financial year.
It comes as new figures show that six people lost their lives while at work across the North East region in 2013/14 and 3,452 suffered injury. That compares to two deaths and 3,682 injuries in the North East the previous year. Statistics were also released today (14 Jan) showing the scale of workplace illness. Across the North East some 55,000 people were estimated to have been made ill through their work over the same period.
Nationally, across Great Britain, there were 133 deaths at work in 2013/14, more than 79,500 injuries were formally reported (through RIDDOR) and over 1.1 million people are estimated to have been made ill. That is a huge reduction from when HSE was formally established in January 1975 to enforce the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 – the statute that underpins all health and safety legislation, and that is credited with making the UK one of the safest places to work in the world. In 1974/75 a total of 651 employees alone were killed, and that is without including self-employed workers whose deaths were not recorded in the same way.
The stark decline is welcome, but local employers are being urged to review whether they can do more to protect their workforce. The latest figures show that those involved in construction, manufacturing and waste and recycling are most at risk, with agriculture another industry where sustained improvement is needed.
Areas of particular concern include falls from height; work on machinery that is poorly maintained and guarded; and failing to properly manage workplace transport.
John Rowe, HSE Head of Operations for the North East said:
“The families of the workers in the North East who sadly lost their lives last year have just had to spend the festive period without their loved ones, while hundreds of other workers were made ill through their work or had their lives changed forever by a major injury.
“Workplace conditions have improved dramatically in the past four decades, but as employers plan and prepare for the new financial year they need to ensure that health, safety and welfare is a clear focus.”
HSE Chair, Judith Hackitt, added:
“In the forty years since HSE was formed, we’ve worked with businesses, workers and government to make Britain a healthier and safer place to work.
“Thousands of serious injuries have been prevented and work-related deaths have reduced by 85 per cent. HSE has helped Britain become one of the safest places to work in the world.
“But we must also recognise that there is still a big challenge to prevent the suffering which does still occur. Seeing the annual statistics always leads to mixed emotions, sympathy for those who have suffered injury themselves and for the families and workmates of those who have lost their lives, determination to improve things further as well as encouragement that we are continuing to make progress in reducing the toll of suffering.
“For the last eight years we have consistently recorded one of the lowest rates of fatal injuries to workers among the leading industrial nations in Europe. However, in HSE’s 40th year it is right that we acknowledge the progress we’ve made and look to a future of striving to bring down these statistics even further.”
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