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Legal spotlight - September 22
14 September 2022
HSE data reminds employers of their workplace safety duties. Here, Kevin Bridges looks at the figures.
THE LATEST data from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on workplace fatalities should serve as a reminder that an employer’s obligations in relation to ensuring the safety of their workplace extends not only to their workers, but also to others who may be affected by their activities, including members of the public.
According to the HSE, 123 workers died in work-related accidents in the year to the end of March 2022. A further 80 members of the public were also killed in a work-related accident in that period. The figures relate to work-related accidents and do not include deaths arising from occupational diseases or diseases arising from certain occupational exposures (including Covid-19). Nor do they include work related suicides, although there have been increasing calls for this to be remedied as part of recent mental health campaigning.
Although the number of fatalities is down on the previous year, the numbers then were almost certainly affected by pandemic restrictions. The real picture appears to be that things are largely as pre-pandemic, although some slight improvement on the five year pre pandemic average witnessed in the construction, agriculture, forestry and fishing and waste and recycling sectors will be some welcome news there. However, the HSE was at pains to stress that more remains to be done to “continue to ensure that safety remains a priority”.
Figures for the transportation and storage sectors revealed a slight increase.
Deaths by industry
Despite a decrease in the actual number of fatalities, the rate of fatal injury in agriculture, forestry and fishing continues to account for significantly more deaths per 100,000 workers than other sectors. Numbers in the waste and recycling sector are also worthy of comment. The waste and recycling sector has recorded an elevated rate of fatal injury over the period 2017/2018- 2021/2022 compared to the average across all industries: 11 times as high. However, with just one worker death in the sector in 2021/22 the number of deaths for this year alone is markedly lower than the average for this sector across the five-year period.
Falls from a height, being struck by a moving vehicle and being struck by a moving, including flying or falling, object continue as the three main causes of fatal injury, between them accounting for over half of all fatal injuries each year since at least 2001/02. This year alone, falls from height have accounted for 24% of all workplace deaths.
Workers over 60 account for 24% of fatal injuries, even although that demograph accounts for just 11% of the overall workforce. Employers should see this as a reminder that their risk assessments, and crucially the associated mitigations they put in place, must take into account the make-up of their particular workforce, and ensure that age is not ignored in their considerations.
Confirmation that 80 members of the public were also killed in a work-related accident in 2021/22 should sharpen the focus of employers; while this number is significantly down when compared with the five year average, employers must not overlook the fact that their duty is to protect not only their employees but others who may be affected by their work, including members of the public.
It is a worthy reminder for employers that the HSE will use these figures to inform their inspections. In their ten year strategy the regulator confirmed that its aim remains to ensure those in control take responsibility and are held to account, a commitment confirmed by the HSE’s chief executive Sarah Albon on publication of the figures.
Kevin Bridges is a partner and head of health and safety at Pinsent Masons. For more information, visit www.pinsentmasons.com
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