Work-related injuries cost £14bn


Published: Wednesday 29th October 2014 by The News Editor

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The number of days lost to work-related health issue or injury is unchanged from five years ago at 28.2 million, according to new figures.

Fatal injuries have fallen and there are fewer other injuries, but the cost to society is still over £14 billion, said the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Britain continues to be one of the safest places to work in Europe, but too many people are being injured or made ill by work, said the report.

Fatalities were reduced from 150 to 133 in the past year, while 77,593 other injuries were reported.

The figure is lower than five years ago but there is no comparison with the previous year because of changes to the reporting system, said the HSE.

Around two million people suffered an illness in 2013/14 they believed was caused or made worse by work, lower than four years ago.

Manufacturing was the worst industry for injuries, with over 3,100 cases in the past year, followed by construction (1,900), waste and recycling (486) and agriculture (292).

Judith Hackitt, who chairs the HSE, said: “We should remind ourselves what these numbers actually mean – the number of times in the last year someone went out to work and either did not return home to their loved ones or came home with life changing injuries.

“The health numbers also demonstrate the scale of harm being done to people’s health while at work, too often leading to premature death.

“Jobsworths using ‘elf n safety as a convenient excuse for all manner of things, and those claiming health and safety is a burden, need to reflect on this. Britain has one of the best health and safety systems in the world, but that is cold comfort to those who have suffered loss or suffering that is so easily avoided with sensible and proportionate risk management.

“We all need to commit to focussing on what really matters – ensuring more people return home from work every day and enjoy long and healthy working lives.”

Steve Murphy, general secretary of the construction workers’ union Ucatt, said: “Far too many workers are needlessly injured in construction. What is truly alarming about these figures is that there is clear evidence that most injuries in construction are not reported.”

The TUC said the figures showed that the number of people being injured or made ill through work was now rising, bringing to an end the previous long-term downward trend.

New cases of work-related illnesses, and the number of self-reported injuries, have both risen to well above the level in 2010/11, said the union organisation.

At the same time enforcement action has fallen, especially in local authority-enforced sectors where illnesses such as back pain and stress are more common, it added

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The rise in illness and injury should be a wake-up call, demanding stronger regulation and enforcement for rogue bosses who put their staff at risk.

“Illness or injury caused by work not only leads to absence, it also leaves people suffering pain, disability and financial loss. Yet workplace illness and injury is preventable. The main responsibility lies with employers, but the Government has the duty for enforcement to bring rogue bosses back into line.

“The Health and Safety Executive does an excellent job with its resources, but the Government’s decision to reduce the number of inspections is allowing more rogue bosses to get away with it. It’s both a human tragedy and a false economy to continue with two million people living with an illness caused by work, and 600,000 new workplace injuries a year.”

Grahame Smith, general secretary of the Scottish TUC, said: “It is clear from these statistics that the 40% funding cuts imposed by the coalition Government on HSE along with their unwarranted ideological attacks on workplace health and safety by the Government and certain sections of the media are having an impact in Scotland.

“Scotland continues to have the highest fatal injury rate across the United Kingdom, with 20 workers losing their lives as a result of incidents at work.

“However, it should be remembered this does not include either the many hundreds who have lost their lives as a result of occupational disease such as mesothelioma and other occupational cancers or other workers killed in work-related road traffic accidents or work-related suicides.

“It would also appear that enforcement and prosecution in Scotland is lagging behind the rest of the United Kingdom. While the number of offences prosecuted across Britain has remained relatively stable over the last five years in Scotland there has been a significant fall from 108 in 2008/09 to 27 in the year to April this year.

“We believe this is due to lack of proactive inspections, a policy forced on the HSE by a Government who refuse to acknowledge the need of the HSE to be autonomous, a position that undermines the role of the HSE as an independent regulator.”

Published: Wednesday 29th October 2014 by The News Editor

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