The Health & Safety Executive has recently released its provisional annual data for work-related fatal accidents in the UK’s workplaces. Whilst any accident may have devastating consequences, the report does at least show that we take Health & Safety seriously in this country, with it being one of the safest places in Europe to work and showing a downward trend in the number of workplace fatalities of both employed and self-employed workers over the course of the last two decades.
In 2014-2015 there were 142 fatal injuries at work which equates to 0.46 fatalities per 100,000 workers; a slight increase on the 136 from the previous period (0.45 per 100,000) but a significant drop from more than 250 in 1995-1996 (1.0 per 100,000). Unsurprisingly, the most “dangerous” places to work are within the Agriculture and Construction industries with 33 and 35 worker fatalities respectively last year. These figures do, however, also show a decrease in the rate of deaths compared to the five year average. Whilst there were 51 deaths within the Service sector, given the large number of people employed in this broad group, this equates to only 0.21 deaths per 100,000 workers.
Compared to the rest of Europe, the rate of fatalities in the UK’s workplaces is notably lower, even compared to the other four leading industrial nations in the EU (Germany 0.9, France 2.64, Spain 1.99 and Italy 1.29 per 100,000 workers). Although variations in the number of people employed in different types of industry account for the range of statistics to some degree, we should be proud to be leading the way when it comes to Health & Safety and look to continue this trend.
These improving statistics are not accidental. The HSE takes the welfare of the nation’s workers seriously and the reporting of Health & Safety incidents at work is a statutory requirement. Employers are becoming better educated in workplace safety and are legally and morally obliged to have the relevant Health & Safety infrastructure in place. Those that don’t not only risk the lives of their employees but will also find themselves falling fowl of the law pretty quickly; the HSE isn’t scared of a bit of naming and shaming. Up to date training for managers and directors as well as factory floor workers is essential for keeping up to date with best practice and regular risk assessments by a qualified Health & Safety specialist will help identify and eliminate any potential threats. Perhaps one day (and before we are all replaced by robots) we can eliminate tragic fatalities and serious injuries from our workplaces altogether.