British Workplaces 'Among Safest In World'

New Figures Show British Workplace Safety Has Improved Significantly Over The Past 40 Years

29.07.2014

Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397
Safety in British workplaces has improved significantly over the past four decades, helping to make the UK one of the safest countries to be employed in throughout the world.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Act. To coincide with this, one of the bodies created on the back of the legislation, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), has published figures showing significant improvement in workplace practice since the 1970s. 

At the time of the Act's introduction in 1974, more than 650 people were killed in workplace incidents each year, while today this figure is just 133, indicating significant safety improvements. 

It is not just the number of fatalities that has dramatically decreased, as injuries sustained at work have also reduced, with 336,701 people hurt while under their employer's supervision during 1974, compared to just 78,222 individuals today.

The Health and Safety at Work Act is to thank for these improvements, as following its introduction, both the HSE and the Health and Safety Commission were established, outlining the rules and regulations relating to workplace conduct that are still used by employers 40 years later. 

With the power to prosecute businesses who are not operating a good standard of health and safety, the HSE may have helped to prevent thousands of workplace accidents and fatalities from occurring over the years, potentially saving hundreds or even thousands of lives.

Commenting on the significant improvements, minister of state for health and safety Mark Harper said: "Britain has come an incredibly long way over the past 40 years in protecting its workforce. Our workplace safety record is now the envy of the world, with businesses and governments queuing up to tap into our expertise.

"Britain is now officially one of the safest places in Europe - and the world - to work."

Chair of the HSE Judith Hackitt added that despite being 40 years old, the Health and Safety at Work Act is "world class".

Expert Opinion
Accidents in the workplace can have a devastating impact on the victim and their families, something we have seen first-hand in our work with those who have suffered injuries while at work. The dramatic reduction in the number of deaths and serious injuries in the workplace over the last 40 years demonstrates that the health and safety laws we have in this country are effective. This was of course the view of the government’s detailed review of health and safety in the workplace, undertaken by Professor Ragnar Loftstedt.

"Despite the unequivocally positive effects of our health and safety laws, the government is seeking to drastically reduce the protections which have been afforded to workers for decades. Last year saw the Enterprise Act, which removed any liability for breach of duty. This year sees the ill conceived SARAH Bill being pushed through. Whilst we have a health and safety system to be proud of, the reforms that are being proposed will do nothing to improve health and safety in the future.

"The HSE figures showed 133 people are killed in workplace accidents and a further 78,222 are injured each year. It is vital that the HSE and businesses continue to work hard to maintain the UK’s world class working environment and further reduce accidents at work in the future. This means continuing to improve safety standards and addressing the serious safety failings that still exist, rather than relaxing the legal framework which has been so successful to date."
Stephen Nye, Partner