The Health and Safety Executive is marking its 40th anniversary by appealing for London businesses to make employee safety their number one priority for the new financial year.
New figures reveal 10 people lost their lives in work accidents across London in 2013/14 and nearly 9,500 suffered injuries, compared with 12 deaths and more than 9,700 injuries the previous year.
Statistics also illustrate the scale of workplace illnesses in London with more than 130,000 people estimated to have been made ill through their work over the same period.
Across the UK, 133 people died in accidents at work, nearly 80,000 people were injured, and more than 1.1 million suffered work illnesses.
Although these figures appear high they represent a huge drop compared to the 651 employees who were killed at work in 1974/75 when the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was formally established to enforce the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Before 1974, approximately 8 million employees had no legal safety protection at work. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 provides the legal framework that underpins all health and safety legislation.
All employers have a duty to comply with the Act and must:
- Provide and maintain safety equipment and safe systems of work
- Ensure materials used are properly stored, handled, used and transported
- Provide information, training, instruction and supervision and ensure staff are aware of instructions provided by manufacturers and suppliers of equipment
- Provide a safe place of employment
- Provide a safe working environment
- Provide a written safety policy/risk assessment
- Look after the health and safety of others, for example the public
- Talk to safety representatives.
The huge fall in fatal work accidents and injuries since the mid 1970s is of course welcome, but the HSE is now urging all London employers to review whether they can do more to protect their staff in terms of training and site safety awareness.
Along with manufacturing, waste and recycling and agriculture, unsurprisingly people involved in the construction industry remain the most at risk of death and serious injury.
Although only accounting for 5% of the British workforce, the construction industry was responsible for more than 30% of all fatal work accidents and 10% of all reported work-related serious injuries in 2013/14.
Areas of particular concern include falls from height, which remain the leading cause of death in the construction industry, failing to properly manage vehicles on construction sites, and using poorly maintained machinery.
As these figures show, there are still many areas where sustained improvement is needed and it is crucial that employers ensure health, safety and welfare at work remain top priorities.
John Reeder is a Senior Personal Injury Lawyer at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.
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