New data released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) indicates that 50 construction workers were killed between April 2010 and March 2011. The figure for the previous year was 41.
Just one day prior to the release of this data, employment minister Chris Grayling opened a consultation on what health and safety laws should be dispensed with. This is part of what is being referred to as the ‘red-tape challenge’ – a government drive to cut bureaucracy. The HSE itself is also facing the prospect of reductions to its budget, which is likely to mean fewer inspections and weaker enforcement of health and safety legislation.
George Guy, acting general secretary of construction workers’ union Ucatt, has warned that the increase in the number of deaths shows that scrapping safety laws is a bad idea. He added that cutting the HSE’s budget amounted to the Government “giving a green light to business to avoid taking safety laws seriously,” and described the “constant attacks on safety laws” as “sickening”.
More fatal injuries occur in the construction sector than any other industry. Philip White, chief construction inspector at the HSE, acknowledged the devastating effect these deaths have on the people left behind, but stressed that there had been an overall downward trend in the number and rates of fatal injuries over the last five years. He added that, whilst the HSE will keep working to reduce the number of deaths, “it is ultimately the responsibility of those who create health and safety risks to control them and prevent people being killed and injured.”
Across all industries, the total number of deaths increased by 16%, from 147 to 171. Although the overall number of deaths was highest in construction, the fatality rates were higher in waste and agriculture.
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