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From the CEO's desk

05 August 2015

July 1 saw the publication by the Health and Safety Executive of the 2014 / 2015 preliminary report on fatal injuries in the workplace in Great Britain.

This report which is available at www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/ is preliminary with the full and final report for the period due to be published in October 2015. The report shows that there were 142 worker deaths in the year to the end of March 2014 which was an increase from the 136 deaths recorded in the previous year.

The report goes on to highlight that while this is an increase and every single fatality is a tragedy they are rare events and as such as subject to statistical chance variation. The figure of 142 is 9% lower than the average for the past five years and confirms that the UK remains one of the very safest places to work.

As I said there will be much more detail available in the October report but this report illustrates again that agriculture and the construction industry remain highly hazardous environments.

The report also confirms that 43 individuals from the total 142 came from the self employed sector. What does this say about the efforts of the previous government to remove sections of the self employed from responsibilities under the Health & Safety at Work Act?

The publication also notes that 102 members of the public were also killed during the period in what is termed 'accidents connected to work'.

The report is a timely reminder that we still have work to do to ensure that good safety practices are vital to the UK workforce.

I write that against the background where 'health' is correctly receiving much greater focus than perhaps previously and is becoming front and centre of our thinking. A phrase coined recently, was that 'we have been shouting safety and whispering health'. This, I think rings true and the increasing focus on 'health' is entirely appropriate. The HSE estimates that there are 13,000 deaths each year due to lung disease caused by past exposures at work mainly due to chemicals and dust. The World Health Organisation estimates that 11,000 people died during the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa, some 2000 less than the 13,000 deaths each year in the UK from Occupational Health.

So, rightly, a great deal of focus is on safeguarding the health of the UK’s workforce but while this makes progress we cannot afford to neglect safety.

In addition to the fatalities the number of accidents at work in 2014 was 78,000. Of that 19,000 were what the HSE recognises as causing major injury with 59,000 accidents resulting in absences of over three days / over seven days. In total more than four million working days were lost because of injury in the UK last year!

We must be vigilant, as the pendulum of priority swings towards occupational health, safety must not be allowed to be neglected.

Alan Murray, BSIF chief executive

Tel: 01442 248744