Workplace Deaths Higher than Official Figures

The Government needs to do more to encourage occupational safety, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has said, warning that official estimates of deaths at work don’t cover the thousands of fatalities caused indirectly by the workplace.

According to the TUC, the figure often given by Government as an indicator of the safety of Britain’s workplaces is the number of workplace deaths that occur at work as a result of injury. This is published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) every year and in 2009-10 it was 151 ? the lowest ever.

However, the TUC’s Case for Health and Safety report claims that at least 20,000 people die early as a result of their work every year ? through conditions such as occupational cancers and lung disorders, exposures to fumes and chemicals, or fatal traffic accidents. It also highlights that many workplace injuries go unreported.

The trade union has called on the Government to appoint a “tsar” for health and safety, as well more support for the work of the HSE and local authorities in protecting people at work.

“Regulation works, as long as it is enforced, it saves lives and prevents unnecessary illnesses,”

said TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber.

“That is why the UK continues to need strong regulation and enforcement. Every one of the 20,000 annual workplace-related deaths could have been prevented. If the level of HSE and local authority funding is cut, the effects will be even more catastrophic.”

An HSE spokesman would not comment on the TUC’s proposals. However, as requested by the Prime Minister, Lord Young is currently undertaking a Whitehall-wide review of health and safety laws ? his findings are expected later this year.

However, British Chambers of Commerce director general, David Frost, said more health and safety red tape would not help small firms.

“There is an emerging consensus that employment law is now weighted too far in favour of the employee. The result is that the UK is becoming increasingly uncompetitive due to the rising cost of labour.”

“Reducing the significant regulatory burden still facing small businesses must be a key element of an economic strategy focused on job creation,” added Frost.

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