Reaction to latest HSE statistics
Reactions to the latest HSE statistics on workplace fatalities, as recently announced, have been mixed, with health and safety professionals welcoming the decline in injuries and deaths, while trade unions and other organisations question the effect of recent changes to injury reporting.
The HSE statistics
The HSE has highlighted an 11% drop in major injuries compared to 2011/12, hailed by the safety watchdog as “an all-time low”. The provisional statistics show that in Britain between April 2012 and March 2013:
- There were 19,707 major injuries such as amputations, fractures and burns, to employees, i.e. a rate of 78.5 injuries per 100,000 employees, compared with 22,094 in 2011/12 and a rate of 88.5 per 100,000 employees
- A total of 148 workers were fatally injured during the period, down from 171 the previous year. The average for the past five years is 181 worker deaths per year
- Workplace injuries and ill-health (excluding work-related cancer) cost society an estimated £13. 8 billion in 2010/11, compared with £16.3 billion in 2006/07 (both in 2011 prices).
There was little change in the list of the higher-risk sectors, i.e. the industries in which workers are most likely to be injured by their jobs. Compared with the national average of 78.5 major injuries per 100,000 employees, the construction industry’s figure was 156 major injuries per 100,000 employees. The figure for agriculture was 239.4 major injuries per 100,000 employees while the figure for the waste and recycling industry was a massive 369.8 per 100,000 employees.
Announcing the figures, Judith Hackitt, the Chair of HSE, said: “This year’s figures demonstrate that Britain continues to improve its health and safety performance, with important falls in the number of workers fatally injured and the number of employees suffering major injuries. But we still see too many deaths and injuries occur in the workplace, many of which could have been prevented through simple safety measures.”
Commenting on the figures, Phil Bates, Senior Policy and Technical Advisor at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), said, “It is good to see a decline in workplace fatalities and injuries, but we must not get complacent because this could just be a reflection of the current economic situation.”
On a more sceptical note, Hugh Robertson, Head of Health and Safety at the Trades Union Congress (TUC), said, the figures showed “just how hard it is to make comparisons now that the HSE has changed the way that injuries are reported,” referring in particular to the replacement of reporting over-three-day injuries with over-seven-day injuries.
He added, “The HSE is claiming that workplace major injuries hit an all-time low for 2012/13, yet the statistics show that the number of days lost through workplace injury is up from 4.3 million to 5.2 million, which implies that the number of people injured is actually going up. So which is correct?”
Disappointment at lack of occupational ill health figures
The British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) has expressed concern at the lack of up-to-date occupational ill health figures in the latest health and safety statistics published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The Society welcomed the news that workplace major injuries hit an all-time low for 2012/13 at 19,707 major injuries, while the number of workers fatally injured was down to 148 from 171 the previous year.
However, the BOHS, which works for the protection of worker health, said it was concerned comparable figures for 2012/13 for occupational ill health are “largely unavailable” in the new HSE Annual Statistics Report 2012/13.
The latest report refers repeatedly to the 2011/12 figures for occupational ill health since no data on work-related illness from the Labour Force Survey was collected in 2012/13.
The HSE has announced on its website that, “From 2011/12, ill health moved to data collection on a biennial basis.”
A source at the BOHS said, “This decision, apparently made as a result of budget constraints, seems a great pity and represents a loss of a rich source of information on ill health.”
Commenting on the available data, the BOHS said the figure of 13,000 deaths each year from work-related diseases was “shockingly high” in comparison to the 148 workers fatally injured at work.
David O’Malley, President of the BOHS, said, “It is encouraging to see the improvement in the workplace safety figures. However, there is a great need for more information and focus in respect of Britain’s occupational disease burden and the decision to move to biennial collection of ill health data is disappointing in this respect.”
He added, “The figure of 13,000 deaths a year as a result of work-related ill health is an appalling toll, and may represent a very conservative estimate. These deaths can be prevented by controlling exposures in the workplace, with the advice and expertise of Britain’s occupational hygienists.”