Lawyer: Workplace Accident Rates Better, But Further Improvement Needed

Work Accidents

08.04.2010

Lawyer: Workplace Accident Rates Better, But Further Improvement Needed

Work accidents may be decreasing but a Yorkshire health and safety expert says there is still plenty of room for improvement as the region loses a reported 2.4 million working days per year to work-related illness and accidents.

The latest figures published by the Health and Safety Executive show there were around 726,000 injuries at work in the UK 2008/9 that resulted in at least a three-day absence from work.

And Yorkshire had a higher-than-average accident rate in the same period, with 130.3 fatal or serious injuries per 100,000 people – above the national average of 125.7 per 100,000. There were 24 fatal injuries in Yorkshire, 2,840 further serious injuries and 10,266 injuries that caused at least a three-day work absence.

Although the national figure is down from 817,000 for the year 2007/8, David Urpeth, Partner and National Head of the Workplace Injuries team at Irwin Mitchell in Yorkshire, said more had to be done to protect workers.

Urpeth said: "We are not talking about minor injuries here – these are injuries serious enough to have resulted in significant periods of absence. Although it is encouraging that the figures are decreasing, we are still looking at hundreds of thousands of people injured in workplace accidents every year.

"There is still a lot of work to be done to get businesses to follow even the basic health and safety guidelines. People should expect to be able to head off to work, do their job and return home safely after their duties. But from these figures it is clear that, all too often, this is not the case.

"Workers frequently come to us after they have suffered serious injury following a work accident which could easily have been avoided. Such industrial accidents cause pain, suffering and misery for the person injured and their family. As noted by the HSE, such accidents at work cost industry an enormous amount of money. The message is clear: good health and safety for workers is also good business."

The HSE figures highlight that certain sectors are performing differently. For 2008/09 the number of major injuries in transport rose to 28,000 from 24,000 against the previous year, and health and social care injuries rose by 1,000 per year to 35,000.

Sectors with decreases in the number of serious injuries included: construction, dropping to 32,000 from 34,000; manufacturing, down to 33,000 from 37,000 and finance and business, down to 11,000 from 14,000.

Urpeth added: "There has been a downward trend since 2005 but it is worrying that certain sectors are seeing a rise in the number of injuries at work in quarter three. The evidence suggests that the rate of accidents is starting to fall much slower than in previous years, and in some sectors it is starting to rise, so there is clearly more work to be done.

"We must not forget the extent to which the economic downturn could have contributed to the decrease in injuries, too – when sectors like construction and manufacturing have been so badly affected by the recession, it stands to reason that there would be fewer people at work to get hurt."