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Latest injury figures – is the trend continuing?
Date of Issue: Friday, 4 September, 2015
Since the Health and Safety at Work Act was implemented in 1974, those of us working in the profession have been able to pride ourselves on the significant reduction in the number of injuries occurring in the workplace. Both the raw injury data and the rate per 100,000 workers have shown a continuing downward trend when viewed as a five year moving average.
The HSE has just published the most recent data for fatal injuries which show a final, confirmed figure of 136 for 2013/14 and a provisional total of 142 for 2014/15. This corresponds to a rise in the injury rate from 0.45 per 100,000 workers to 0.46. This is still nine per cent lower than the five year moving average and could still indicate that the downward trend is continuing, but looking at the figures from 2008/09 to the present shows a more ambiguous picture. In addition to these figures for fatal accidents to workers we need to bear in mind that a worrying total of 123 members of the public were killed in workplace accidents, including 21 resulting from railway incidents.
More uncertainty arises when we consider the figures for individual industries. As in previous years the sector with the highest number of fatal accidents has been construction.
However, the total of 35 fatalities is actually 22 per cent below the five year average which includes 2012 – the Olympic year – when the largest construction project in Europe was completed with no fatal accidents. Another encouraging result was in the manufacturing industry with 16 fatal injuries compared with the five year average of 24 and the rate of 0.55 compared with 0.84 for the five year average.
Another bright picture was for mining and quarrying. In 2014/15 there was only one fatality compared to an average of five. However, there are some less encouraging trends. In agriculture, which is usually seen as a particularly hazardous industry, there were 33 deaths – identical to the five year average and thus showing no improvement. Of these, 19 were self-employed compared with a total of 14 employees. Of more concern must be the apparent trend for workers in the service industries, which account for a greater proportion of the working population than in the past. In 2014/15 the reported total was 51, which represents a figure 21 per cent higher than the five year average.
However, before we start to feel that conditions are seriously deteriorating, Great Britain’s injury figures still compare favourably to other countries around in the world.
As a final thought, this article was written when news was still emerging about the explosion at Wood Treatment in Bosley, Cheshire. Our thoughts are with the families of those affected by this tragic incident.
Barry Holt, Director of Policy and Research, IIRSM.