Hazards Campaign says HSE statistics drastically misrepresent cost of work

H&S statistics for 20-07/08 published yesterday by the HSE claimed they ‘reveal a reduction in number of people killed, injured or made ill by work during 2007/08’ and claim ‘229 people were killed by work.’ 1

The Hazards Campaign challenges these figures claiming they drastically undercount the numbers killed in work-related incidents, do not include those killed by occupational illness, and grossly underestimate the numbers suffering from work-related ill-health 2

Hazards Campaign spokesperson Hilda Palmer said:

“This annual misrepresentation of the numbers killed by work could be called the ‘HSE myth of the year ‘. It contributes to the undermining of worker and public safety and the case for policies and resources to be allocated to tackling what is a massive cause of public ill-health, and masks the huge number of personal tragedies occurring every day. It also allows encourages a false sense of security by underestimating the real risk faced by workers and members of the public, and feeds into the nonsensical ‘elf and safety gorn mad’ media hype, and demands from business for deregulation, light touch regulation and cuts in the enforcement burden.

“As we head for global economic meltdown largely due to an uncritical acceptance that financial business could be trusted to do the right thing, we can see that deregulation and light touch regulation has brought us to the brink of disaster. We urgently need to learn those lessons from the financial sector and look far more critically at what’s really going on in our workplaces where more workers are being killed, injured and made ill, than the HSE headline figures suggest and we need more health and safety law and enforcement rather than less.”

The headline fatality figure quoted in HSE press release ‘229 people were killed at work’ fails to make clear that this refers only the workers killed in workplace incidents whose deaths were reportable to the HSE or local authorities, not those reportable to other enforcement authorities such as the police, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency or the Civil Aviation Authority.

The HSE 229 fatalities do not include:

  • the estimated 1,000 who are killed in road traffic incidents involving ‘at work’ vehicles 3
  • the 95 members of the public killed by work activities 1
  • an estimated 30 killed in coastal waters or in aircraft incidents
  • the 100-250 suicides attributed to work-related stress 4
The Hazards Campaign estimates the total number of people killed in work-related incidents last year as about 1,454 -1,606 which is 6-7 times the HSE headline figure, and more than the number of murders each year (5)!

But the iceberg of work-related ill-health is as always, the number dying each year due to occupational illnesses which the Hazards Campaign estimate as up to 50,000.

The HSE statistics state that ‘every year thousands of people die from work-related diseases’ and itemise these as work-related cancer deaths in excess of 6,000, of which about 4,000 are due to asbestos cancers, plus 111 deaths from asbestosis, 182 from pneumoconiosis, and around 15% of COPD that may be work-related, which is about 4,000 deaths. Adding this up gives an HSE estimate of deaths due to work-related diseases each year of 10,293. 6

The Hazards Campaign estimates that each year:

12% of all cancer deaths are work-related which suggests 18,000 deaths, compared to the HSE’s 6,000;
15-20% of obstructive lung disease deaths are work related, which is about 6,000 deaths;
20% of heart disease deaths are work-related, which is about 20,000;
plus 6,000 for deaths from all other work-related causes including restrictive respiratory diseases.

Which gives a possible estimate of up to 50,000 dying from occupational disease each year. 7

For more information contact Hilda Palmer 0161 636 7557

Notes to Editors

1. Health and Safety statistics 2007/08 http://wwww.hse.gov.uk/statistics/hssoct08.htm
2. Burying the evidence Hazards 92 Oct/Dec 2005 and www.hazards.org.uk/cancer;
Environmental and occupational causes of cancer: A review of recent scientific literature, Richard Clapp et al UMASS Lowell September 2005, www.sustainableproduction.org
3. RoSPA Occupational Safety, http://www.rospa.com/occupationalsafety/index.htm
4. Crying Shame? Hazards 101 Jan/March 2007 and www.hazards.org.uk/suicide
5. A crisis of enforcement: the decriminalisation of death and injury at work by Prof Steve Tombs and Dr David Whyte, Centre for Criminal Justice Briefing 6 June 2008
6. Health and Safety statistics 2007/08 page 8 http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/hssoct08.htm
7. A Job to Die for? Hazards 92 Oct/Dec 2005

Hazards conference 2008

Hazards conference 2008
Workers’ strategies for healthy workplaces 18th – 20th July 2008 University of Keele, Stoke on Trent

Conference documents

• Unions and researchers work together to lift a ton of feathers: Gaining recognition for women’s OHS problems in Québec Karen Messing, UQAM – Powerpoint presentation • more
• Pete Kilbane speech, Keighley Worksafe Project pdf
• Asbestos in schools and government policies, Michael Lees pdf
• Presentation of the Alan troublemaker award YouTube
• Hazards 2008 Picasa photo gallery
• Dame Carol Black motion YouTube • motion and letter • News release, 24 July 2008

Conference essentials

• Booking form pdf
 Sponsorship appeal 2008 pdf
• Nomination form for the ‘Alan’ 2008 pdf

Hazards Campaign rejects BERR Report – 9 August 2008

Hazards Campaign rejects BERR Report ‘Improving Outcomes from Health and Safety’ as it is not about making workers lives safer or healthier, but is part of the government’s deregulation promise to business – to reduce regulation by 25%, have a moratorium on new regulation and save alleged millions of pounds for employers. This is despite the fact that the number of H&S regulations have halved in the last 13 years. The report and associated documents is an example of the dumbing down health and safety.

A spokesperson said: “The Hazards Campaign would welcome with open arms a report which really did what it said on the title page -improving H&S outcomes. But this BERR report ‘Improving Outcomes from Health and Safety’, is so far from what is urgently needed from the government to address the appalling state of health and safety that many workers experience daily, that we feel it is a waste of time and money.

The idea that the ’average firm spending 20 hour a year and over £350 a year on meeting the administration costs of compliance with the Management of Health and Safety regulations’ is being over burdened when this equates to less than 4 minutes per day, is so ludicrously stupid it can only come from a pro-business zealot more interested in urban myths than the hard evidence of workers bearing the burden of illness and injury.

“As we are all being squeezed by the global recession due largely to the unregulated dealings of the financial business sectors, to call for more deregulation sounds amazingly reckless! For this to come shortly after the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee report stated that the Better Regulation Task Force has vastly overestimated claims of savings from cutting regulations, this call for yet more deregulation of H&S to save employers time and money seems to comes from a government bizarrely unable or unwilling to put people’s lives and health before the perceived needs of business, and which prefers to fiddle while the country burns. There is no corresponding calculation to illustrate the cost of non-compliance for example the cost to an SME of making one worker ill with MSDs from incorrect manual handling, or working badly at a computer. This call for yet more deregulation of H&S to save employers time and money seems to comes from a government bizarrely unable or unwilling to put people’s lives and health before the perceived needs of business, and which prefers to fiddle while the country burns.

The Report purports to concentrate on low risk SMEs where the risk of illness or injury is low, but in fact many of the sectors covered have a high risk of musculo-skeletal disorders such as Hotels and Restaurants, Wholesale, Retail and Repair and office work in the Finance and Business sector; the Education sector has a high risk of work-related stress. The report is also utterly silent on almost other types of occupational illness, especially long latency diseases such as asbestos related disease, cancers, respiratory and circulatory diseases.

Using only HSE official figures of accidents at work, the report ignores all those work-related deaths on the roads and also the huge burden of occupational illness which accounts for up to 50,000 deaths a year. An amazing burden on working people the government seems only to keen to add to while making it easier for non-compliant to criminal employers to continue getting away with it.

‘The Perceptions of the H&S Regime’ report conducted by Vanilla Research shows how businesses often report feeling over- burdened but mistakenly conflate H&S with other regulations, rely on second, third hand or hearsay information, rarely seeking out definitive facts themselves from well publicised sources, and apparently not intending to ensure they are complying with basic laws anyway! Yet this whole process aims to normalise the process by which health and safety is downgraded and treated as nothing more that common sense. Would that it were so, but understating how to work safely at a computer to avoid developing MSDs, or that work that creates silica dust can cause cancer, isn’t just common sense. We doubt that companies openly saying 100% compliance with taxation laws was impossible would be acceptable. The truth is we cannot afford employers lack of compliance with H&S that costs workers so dearly, the whole economy possibly up to £60 billion per year yet the cost to an employer for record keeping is a measly £350 a year and less than 4 mins a day.

“Asking the HSE to provide more advice and information to SMEs, may be a fine idea but as the HSE cannot cope with existing workloads and there is no mention of the essential role of enforcement in gaining compliance, or the need for massive injection of extra resources to do both roles, this is fairly meaningless. The report purports to be about improving H&S but is fairly clearly being promoted as a way to save employers time and money and as such is unlikely to make anyone safer or healthier at work, but will reassure employers than applying so called ‘common sense’ with no need to find out what their legal duties are, is actually perfectly acceptable behaviour. As many tragic examples show, common sense by employers is frequently in very short supply and did not protect workers from death – Steven Burke, Daniel Dennis, Andrew Herbertson, Craig Whelan and Paul Wakefield, Mark Wright, Andrew Hutin, Lewis Murphy, Samuel Adams, the nine people killed in the ICL explosion, Christopher Knoop, to name but a few see www.fack.org.uk and www.hazards.org/deadlybusiness.

“Just like we are all paying now for the unregulated antics of the financial sector, if this deregulatory approach wins the day, we will all be paying with our health and safety “

“The Reports main findings include that coverage of H&S in the media is often negative but seem unaware that the report itself contributes to this by portraying H&S as ‘only common sense’, and as a burden, allegedly costing employers £millions, and which must be removed! It recommends (recommendation 3) developing a more active media strategy to show the benefits of good H&S and consequences of poor H&S but fails to suggest learning from Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK) the Asbestos and other victim support groups and Hazards magazine as successful proponents of this approach.

“Recommendation 1 includes a long term Hazards Campaign demand by suggesting the HSE considers making more of its guidance free to download.

For more information Hilda Palmer 0161 636 7557

Hazards Magazine: www.hazards.org/deadly business
Hazards Campaign: www.hazardscampaign/org.uk
Families Against Corporate Killers: www.fack.org.uk

For more information Hilda Palmer 0161 636 7557