The health and safety sector have welcomed a slight fall in the number of people who died in workplace accidents in 2016-17 compared to the year before, but unions have argued that the era of deregulation must end for the numbers to significantly fall in coming years.
Provisional figures released by the HSE on 5 July show that 137 workers were fatally injured in the year to the end of March 2017, compared to 147 in the preceding year, and 142 in 2014–15.
This is the second lowest annual number of fatal injuries on record: the lowest toll came in 2013–14, when 136 workers died. Looking at the overall downward trend over the past 20 years, however, the rate of decrease has stalled over the last few years.
On the other hand, the fatality rate per 100,000 of the working population in 2016–17 was in fact the lowest on record, reflecting the fact that more people are in work than in previous years.
The rate was 0.43 per 100,000 workers, compared to 0.47 in 2015–16, 0.46 in 2014–15 and 0.45 in 2013–14.
Elizabeth Sinclair, Director of Epica Health & Safety commented on this article and said: “Although this figure can be seen as low and have plateaued in recent years, this is no cause for celebration. Each of these deaths were avoidable and each cut short a life, leaving devastated friends and family behind. Companies need to seriously look at significant risk they put their employees and others at and put in place the necessary control measures to save life. It’s not acceptable that someone should go to work and not return to their loved ones.”
The GMB trade union welcomed the fall, but said that the fatality figures gave a “misleading” picture of the true burden of health and safety failings.