The latest statistics for 2014/15 published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on fatal injuries in the workplace show that while the UK has a good safety record when compared with other EU Member States, there is no room for complacency.

The headlines from the annual report are:

  • a provisional 142 worker fatalities, giving a fatal injury rate of 0.46 per deaths per 100,000 workers. Though this represents an increase on last year’s figure of 136 fatalities, the HSE describes the increase as "not statistically significant"
  • the downward trend in fatalities over the last 20 years has continued to slow in the last three years
  • 102 members of the public were fatally injured in accidents connected to work (excluding railway-related incidents)
  • the sector with the highest rate of fatal injury is agriculture, although the sector recorded a slight decrease when compared to the average rate over the previous five-years
  • there were also modest drops against the five-year average in mining and quarrying, manufacturing, waste and recycling, and construction
  • there were 51 fatal injuries to workers in "services", which was an increase on the five-year average rate.

The picture that emerges from the provisional statistics is a static one - the overall rate of fatality per 100,000 workers in 2014/15 is almost identical to that of 2012/13 and, before that, 2009/10, with very little movement up or down in the intervening years.

However, while the overall trend is positive, it is clear that HSE will be unstinting in its pursuit of organisations that fall short of the required safety standards.Organisations need to ensure that:

  • their health and safety policy is comprehensive, up to date and is reviewed regularly
  • a responsible person with knowledge of health and safety legislation is in charge of the organisation's health and safety policy
  • they have a full suite of health and safety risk assessments and that any issues identified by the assessments are properly addressed
  • all employees are fully trained and subject to refresher training at appropriate intervals on health and safety issues and the organisation's procedures and records of  such training are kept
  • employees are provided with appropriate protective clothing and equipment
  • where an organisation has a number of branches or offices, its health and safety policy is implemented and enforced throughout the organisation
  • regular health and safety audits are carried out to ensure that practices and procedures are being followed and to identify any new health and safety risks which arise.

It is not enough that these policies and procedures are in place.Organisations, including directors and senior managers, must understand the importance of their health and safety obligations and take compliance with those obligations seriously. The HSE will expect a culture of compliance to be embedded throughout the organisation from the boardroom all the way down to the shop floor. Organisations should also be reminded of the new sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences that are expected to be implemented later this year and will have the effect of significantly increasing fines following health and safety convictions.