06 July 2012 10:04
The number of employees fatally injured at work last year fell slightly, leaving Britain with one of the lowest levels in Europe, official figures showed.
A total of 173 workers were killed in the year to March, down by two over the previous 12 months, but the fatal injury rate remained largely unchanged at 0.6 per 100,000 workers.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) figures revealed 49 construction-related deaths, down by one, and 33 fatal injuries to agriculture workers, up by three over the previous year.
HSE chairman Judith Hackitt said: "Britain continues to have one of the lowest levels of fatal workplace injuries in Europe, part of a long-term downward trend.
"But we must not forget that these are lives cut short, not statistics - every single one of these deaths will have caused terrible grief and anguish for family and friends as well as workmates and colleagues. This is the real tragedy of health and safety failures – lives cut short and loved ones lost.
"We want employers to focus on the real risks that continue to cause death and serious injury. HSE is working very hard to make it easier for people to understand what they need to do and to focus on the real priorities. Protecting people from death and serious injury at work should be at the heart of what we all do."
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Although any drop, however small, in the number of workplace fatalities is to be welcomed, these figures are still well above the historic low of two years ago.
"What is most worrying is that during previous economic downturns there has been a decrease in the rate of fatalities. The fact that this is not happening now suggests that deaths could rise sharply as Britain comes out of recession, unless urgent action is taken to improve workplace safety.
"During the past two years we have seen a considerable fall in the number of routine safety inspections and at the same time both the HSE and local authorities have had their funding cut. Yet still we see the Government continuing to attack what they claim is an unnecessary health and safety culture, a view that is unlikely to be shared by the families of the 173 people who died last year as a result of their jobs."