Workplace Deaths Fall to 35-year Low

Workplace Deaths Fall to 35-year Low

The number of people killed at work fell to a record low last year, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has revealed.

In the year ending March 2009, 180 people died because of work-related incidents ― down from 233 the previous year ― making it the lowest number since records began in 1974.

Workplace injury and sickness levels were also down, the research found. Across England, Scotland and Wales, 29.3 million working days (the equivalent of 1.2 days per worker) were lost to injury and ill health last year, compared with 33.9 million in the previous year.

HSE chair, Judith Hackett, welcomed the figures as “encouraging”, but said that the low rates could be partly attributable to reduced activity levels during the recession.

“While the recession will undoubtedly have an impact, the effect is not direct and easy to explain,” she said. “But history suggests that when we start moving back into economic growth the rate of work-related injuries will tend to increase.”

An HSE spokeswoman said this was partly due to firms employing a “first in, first out” policy, meaning that it was more experienced staff who tended to stay in work, and these employees were less likely to incur injury or have fatal accidents than junior or unskilled workers.

“Senior or skilled employees are less likely to make mistakes with heavy equipment or machinery, so this could partly explain the fall in numbers,” she said.

Despite the drop, a British Safety Council spokesman stressed that there was still some way to go.

“The downward trend will be of little consolation to the relatives and friends of the 180 people killed at work last year,” he said.

“The human balance sheet should be part and parcel of a company’s financial success and although training and education will stop people being killed and help them avoid injury, creating a safer working environment for colleagues needs real commitment,” added the spokesman.

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