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Accidents at Work in the UK – Concerns over Rise in Workplace Fatalities Numbers

by Personal Injury Claims Blawg on July 24, 2018

The news that 144 people lost their lives from accidents at work during 2017/18, an increase of nine over the previous year, has led to fresh calls for more to be done to ensure the safety and wellbeing of workers.

Different Industrial Sectors

The provisional figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that the fatalities are spread across different industrial sectors, but some sectors continue to be inherently more dangerous than others for workers:

  • There were 38 fatal injuries to construction workers recorded, which is the largest share of any industry. The annual average rate over the last five years in construction is around four times as high as the all industry rate.
  • 29 fatal injuries to agricultural workers were recorded. This sector has the highest rate of fatal injury of all the main industry sectors, around 18 times as high as the all industry rate.
  • 12 fatal injuries to waste and recycling workers were recorded. Despite being a relatively small sector in terms of employment, the annual average fatal injury rate over the last five years is around 16 times as high as the all industry rate.
  • 15 fatal injuries were recorded in both the manufacturing and the transport and storage sectors. Both industries have an annual average rate of fatal injury around 1.5 – 2 times the rate across all industries over the last five years.

“Despite the fact that Britain’s health and safety record is the envy of much of the world, the increase in the number of workers fatally injured is clearly a source of concern,” commented HSE Chair Martin Temple. “Published in the same week as the 30th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster, the figures serve as a reminder of why health and safety is so important and that we must not become complacent as we continue on our mission to prevent all forms of injury, death and ill health at work.”

Mesothelioma Levels Remain High

One particular area of concern highlighted by the HSE figures is the number of people who continue to die as a result of exposure to asbestos.

An alarming 2,595 people lost their lives in Britain in 2016 as a result of contracting mesothelioma – a form of cancer that takes many years to develop following the inhalation of asbestos fibres, but is usually rapidly fatal once symptoms begin to manifest. It is one of the few work-related diseases where deaths can be counted directly.

HSE explains that annual deaths caused by mesothelioma have increased steeply over the last 50 years in Britain, mainly as a result of occupational asbestos exposures that occurred because of the widespread industrial use of asbestos during 1950-1980.

The long-term increase in mesothelioma deaths has apparently been driven mainly by deaths among those aged 75 and above, and the vast majority are men. The latest projections suggest there will continue to be around 2,500 deaths per year for the rest of this current decade before annual numbers begin to decline.

Every Death is a Tragedy

Safety organisations have reacted with concern to the latest HSE figures.

“Every workplace death is a tragedy for the person and their families, friends and workmates,” commented Lawrence Waterman, Chairman of the British Safety Council. “The latest rise in deaths at work reported by the HSE undermines the complacent belief that ‘we have the best safety record in the world’ and raises questions about the hollowing out of the HSE’s and local authorities’ ability to inspect workplaces.”

“The headline accident figures shouldn’t blind us to the terrible and continuing toll that poor health is wreaking, not just physical health, with deaths from asbestos alone dwarfing the accident numbers,” he added.

Personal Injury Claims Blawg

Personal Injury Claims Blawg

PI claims blogger at PIClaimsBlawg
Personal Injury Claims Blawg is a personal injury law blog, inviting contributions from practitioners, PI law firms and legal academics across the UK, US and beyond. The post above has been published because of the high value associated with the author's work. Contact us if you'd like to get published today.
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