Fatalities at work hit a record low

Fewer people are dying at work - but is that purely because of an unhealthier economy?

Last Updated: 17 Jan 2011

The country may be fretting about the biggest cuts in a generation, the sun may have disappeared behind a cloud, and England may be out of the World Cup – but there is some good news to celebrate today: last year, fewer people than ever before received fatal injuries at work. Which, we're sure you'll agree, has to be a good thing. According to the Health and Safety Executive (a quango that's in no way attempting to justify its existence) just 151 workers were killed last year, compared to 178 the year before. Although this may be the result of a weaker jobs market, as opposed to better health and safety practices...

The good news is that last year's number of workplace fatalities was significantly lower than the average over the last five years, which stood at 220 per year. People working in services should be feeling particularly cheerful – only 42 of their number died last year, compared to the average of 72, while construction workers saw the number of fatal injuries drop from 52 last year to 41 this year.

Of course, 151 fatalities is still 151 too many. And before companies start patting themselves on the back about their progress, the party-pooping HSE suggests that the drop might have something to do with ‘lower levels of activity’ in certain industries. And it may have a point: for instance, given the number of job losses and general travails of the manufacturing sector lately, it’s perhaps no surprise to discover that its number of fatalities dropped by more than a third.

A more bizarre theory is that the slump in graduate recruitment may have been another factor in the drop-off - the idea being that without wet-behind-the-ears graduates around to cause chaos, fewer accidents are happening (an idea that we suspect will horrify graduate recruiters). According to figures released today by High Fliers Research, there’s now an average of 270 students vying for each graduate position available. The HSE would presumably argue that the lucky few who do manage to find work shouldn't be left in any potentially lethal situations.

Still, generally speaking, the message from the HSE is: even if you're forced to cut your spending, don't cut corners and compromise on health and safety. Given the imminent axe-wielding in the public sector, we hope the Government takes that to heart.

In today's bulletin:
Sky hikes prices - as BT offers its sports channels on the cheap
City fund managers hammered by new EU bonus rules
Toyota suffers fresh setback with Lexus engine fault
Editor's blog: Time for a woman to run the CBI?
Fatalities at work hit a record low

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