The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. Their role is to prevent work-related death, injury and ill health through regulatory actions that range from influencing behaviours across whole industry sectors through to targeted interventions on individual businesses and enforcement action through Fee For Intervention Charges, Improvement Notices, Prohibition Notices and prosecution through the courts.
However, organisations such as Hazards, have disputed the HSE official figures for many years, given that they are only based on RIDDOR figures, and the fact that HSE has now become more of a commercial entity than that of a thorough enforcing agency independent of the Government.
Despite the claims that HSE activities ".... are supported by globally recognised scientific expertise.", the reality is that their enforcement and prosecution responsibilities are diminished year by year.
One hundred and thirty-five workers were killed in work-related incidents in Great Britain in the last year, according to figures published on 6 July by the Health and Safety Executive. Click the image below right to download the stats themselves.
The industries with the highest deaths were:
- Construction (45),
- Agriculture, forestry, and fishing (21),
- Manufacturing (15),
- Transportation and storage (15).
Agriculture, forestry, and fishing has the highest rate of fatal injury per 100,000 workers of all the main industrial sectors followed by waste and recycling. The three most common causes of fatal injuries are falls from height (40), being struck by a moving object (29), and being struck by a moving vehicle (20).
The annual data release published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Great Britain’s workplace regulator, covers the period from April 2022 to March 2023.
The total of 135 worker deaths in 2022/23 is higher than the previous year (123) but is in line with pre-pandemic levels. The figure for 2020/21 was 145.
The UK Government and HSE continue to claim that Great Britain is one of the safest places in the world to work and that there has been a long-term downward trend in the rate of fatal injuries to workers, though in the years prior to the coronavirus pandemic the rate was broadly flat.
A further 68 members of the public were killed following a work-related incident in 2022/23. This is a decrease of 20 from last year.
In a statement launching the annual data release HSE’s chief executive Sarah Albon stated;
“Any loss of life in the workplace is a tragedy. While these figures show Great Britain is one of the safest countries in the world to work, safety must continue to be at the top of everyone’s agenda. HSE’s mission is to protect people and places and HSE remains committed to maintaining safe workplaces and holding employers to account for their actions.”
The number of all work-related fatalities in Northern Ireland (2021-22), including those within areas that are the responsibility of both HSENI and local councils, was 19 compared to 13 in the last reporting year. The 2022-23 data will be published later in the year.
HSE has also published the annual figures for Mesothelioma, a cancer caused by past exposure to asbestos. The figures show 2,268 people died from the disease in 2021. This is a fall of 302 compared with the 2,570 deaths in 2020 and substantially lower than the average of 2,520 deaths per year over the period 2012-2019.
Asbestos-related diseases take decades to develop. Most people with them today will largely have been exposed before the tightening of controls and the use of asbestos was banned in 1999.
The current regulations state that where asbestos is present in buildings it must be managed, maintained in a good condition, and stay undisturbed. If this level of protection cannot be achieved, then asbestos must be removed.
These regulations have led to a significant reduction in exposure and the number of people developing asbestos-related illness is predicted to fall as we get further from the date asbestos was banned in 1999. Prior to that point, asbestos was used extensively in construction.
Commenting via letter to CWU branches (LTB179/23), the Union's national Health, Safety, and Environment Officer, Dave Joyce reminded readers of the TUC Policy on Asbestos:
The TUC policy, backed 100% by the CWU is for all asbestos to be removed from public and commercial buildings. The House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee of MPs last year published a report from its inquiry into asbestos management in which it backed the TUC call for the complete eradication of asbestos from buildings.
The TUC says current asbestos management is not fit for purpose and has long called for new legislation requiring removal of all asbestos from public buildings. There is no safe threshold of exposure to asbestos fibres – inhalation even of small quantities can lead to Mesothelioma decades after exposure.
This means that where asbestos is still present, it is not safe to assume there will be no disturbances that put working people in danger. The only way we will eradicate Mesothelioma in Britain is with a legal duty to safely remove asbestos, and a clear timetable for its eradication. Only then can we ensure that future generations will not have to experience the same deadly epidemic from asbestos-related diseases that we suffer today."
HSE claim their approach to asbestos management is based on evidence that is constantly reviewed.
HSE has recently launched a campaign called ‘Asbestos & You’ to raise awareness of the risks associated with the dangerous substance, which can be found on their website here
Source: CWU / HSE
See also: Doves Fly In Memory Of Victims For Action Mesothelioma Day 2023