No-one should die simply for going to work but HSE figures are not the whole story

The Hazards Campaign very much welcomes any reduction in the number of people being killed simply for going to work –HSE PR ‘Worker deaths fall to new low’ – but remembers far too many families devastated as a result of someone never coming home from work.

Hazards Campaign spokesperson, Hilda Palmer said: “No-one should die because they went to work to earn a living, except in rare, freak and unavoidable accidents. But yet again we must point out that the HSE figures – 151 compared to 178 the year before(1)- are NOT the total national figures for those killed by work and should not be reported as such. The UK Statistics Authority in its assessment of the HSE’s compliance with the code of practice for official statistics, May 2010, states that the ‘HSE does not produce an overall figure for work-related fatalities in Great Britain.’ and makes recommendations that they ‘investigate the feasibility of producing statistics on the total number of work-related injuries and fatalities’ (2)

“HSE reports only those killed whose deaths must be reported under RIDDOR, while we include all worker-related incident deaths and estimate this to be up to 1,500 a year even in the recession. Almost all work-related deaths are not accidents, and could and should have been prevented but workers do not only die in incidents due to a lack of safety, many tens of thousands more die of illnesses such as occupational cancers, heart disease and lung diseases caused by poor working condition, up to 50,000 per year we estimate (3).

“It is vital that the ill wind of a recession, which in this case has delivered at least part of this reduction in some workplace deaths, is not overestimated or taken as justification by the Lord Young Review or the forthcoming cuts in the public sector, for an assault on health and safety laws or their enforcement. Every worker, wherever they work, in an office, a hospital, a school, on a building site, a farm, in recycling, on an oil rig, or as an emergency worker, is at risk of injury or ill-health caused by their employer’s non-compliance. All workers are entitled to have not only their safety but their immediate and long term health protected while they are working. All workers lives are precious: a fire-fighter’s life is just as precious as a construction worker; an office worker should be protected from risks to their health and safety just like any other worker. Over zealous health and safety, or refusing to accept risks, or too much health and safety law, did not kill these people, but non-existent compliance and weak enforcement did contribute to their avoidable deaths. This is unacceptable at any time but especially now when we are all being told we must work harder, for less money and for many years longer.”

For more information contact Hilda Palmer 0161 636 7557


1. Worker deaths fall to new low HSE PR 30.06.10:

2. The UK Statistics Authority in their Report 42 on Assessments of compliance with Code of Practice for official statistics – Statistics on Health and Safety at Work (produced by the HSE) Published May 2010

Para 1.3.4: ‘Statistics on work-related injuries and fatalities exclude those injuries that take place on the roads, in the air, at sea and exclude the armed forces. Although this is clearly acknowledged on HSE’s website, it is not always made clear in the presentation of the statistics- for example, when addressing the organisation’s targets in the compendium for publication. HSE does not produce an overall figure for work-related fatalities in Great Britain.’

Para 1.2 Under Decision concerning designation as National Statistics HSE stats on work-related ill-health and injury and on enforcement can be designated as National Statistics subject to HSE implementing the enhancements listed in section 1.5 and reporting them to the Authority by September 2010.

Section 1.5 lists 15 Requirement for designation as National Statistics Requirement 8: ‘Investigate the feasibility of producing statistics on the total number of work-related injuries and fatalities, including those not reportable under RIDDOR

3. ‘The Whole Story’ published in Safety and Health Practitioner December 2008

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