05 July 2012
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is disappointed that the number of workplace injury deaths in Britain has fallen only slightly - but the safety charity is cautioning against looking at reportable fatal accident figures in isolation because they are just a small part of the overall burden of work-related death.
The provisional figures for fatal injuries in the workplace in Britain in 2011/12, published today by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), show that 173 workers were killed - a reduction of two from the previous year’s figure of 175. The rate of fatal injury remained the same, at 0.6 per 100,000 workers.
The construction industry accounted for 49 of the deaths (down from 50 in 2010/11) and agriculture accounted for 33 of the deaths (up from 30 in 2010/11). There were five deaths in the waste and recycling industry (down from nine deaths in 2010/11). There were 31 deaths in manufacturing and 10 deaths in mining and quarrying.
In addition to the 173 worker fatalities, 90 members of the public were killed in accidents connected to work (excluding railways-related incidents).
The figure of 173 worker deaths in 2011/12 is 12 per cent lower than the average for the past five years (196).
Roger Bibbings, RoSPA’s occupational safety adviser, said: “It is disappointing that workplace accident deaths have not fallen further. Work-related deaths shatter families and they also have massive consequences for businesses, communities and society as a whole. The figures for 2011/12 prove that we must remain focused on prevention. An important part of this involves helping employers, particularly smaller firms, get a handle on effective safety and health management, which we know can be a subject that is widely misinterpreted.
“It must also be remembered that workplace accidents represent just a small part of the overall burden of work-related death. Work-related road accidents, for example, are not included in the HSE figures and are estimated to be much higher in number than accidents in fixed workplaces.
“There is also the largely unseen burden of harm due to work-related health damage. For example, the results of the work which Lesley Rushton and her team at Imperial College London have done for the HSE on occupational cancer mortality projections shows a massive and continuing epidemic.
“Indeed, taking not just cancer but other occupationally related conditions such as COPD, heart disease and so on, it is clear that more workers are dying early as a result of past failure to control harmful exposures than are being killed in accidents. Of course, most of these deaths occur after work has ceased but, in many cases, people are losing up to 20 years of life expectancy. If this occurred through a massive rate of accidents among 55-60 year olds there would be a huge outcry. The level of work-related ill health demonstrates just how severe the consequences of prevention failure can be and it is a major burden on families and society.”
RoSPA remains committed to playing its part to enhance skills and awareness, provide information and identify and celebrate good practice in health and safety management to save lives, reduce injuries and protect health while at work. For more information on RoSPA’s occupational safety work, see www.rospa.com/occupationalsafety/.