Increase in workplace deaths, cuts to HSE services and fewer inspections
The HSE has published the workplace fatal injury statistics for Great Britain showing that the number of workplace fatalities has risen from 147 in 2009/10 to 171 in 2010/11.
There was a significant increase too in the rate of fatal injury per 100,000 workers “up from 0.5 in 2009/10 to 0.6 in 2010/11. While the number of workplace deaths in the agriculture sector fell from 38 to 35 there was an increased number of deaths in the construction, manufacturing and service sectors.
Construction sector deaths rose from 41 to 50, manufacturing sector deaths rose from to 24 to 27 and service sector deaths rose from 42 to 47. In terms of the rate of fatal injury the agriculture and waste recycling sectors stand out as having the highest fatal injury incidence rates.
In a controversial move, HSE is to close its Infoline telephone service and to introduce predominantly online reporting of many work-related injuries and incidents. In steps HSE says are designed to “improve efficiency further and deliver value for taxpayers”, the Infoline telephone service – which provides basic health and safety information to callers – will close on 30 September.
Meanwhile, all reportable work-related injuries and incidents – other than fatal and major injuries and incidents – will have to be reported online from 12 September.
Under the changes to RIDDOR reporting, people will no longer be able to report many work injuries and incidents by telephone, email, post or fax. Instead, interactive forms will be available on HSE’s website to allow online reports to be made of major and over-three-day injuries; cases of occupational disease and dangerous occurrences – such as the collapse of certain scaffolds or lifting equipment.
However, it will still be possible to report fatalities and major injuries and incidents by telephone.
Although HSE says the abolition of the Infoline is “in line with the public sector-wide drive to deliver services more efficiently”,the move has been condemned by trade unions, who say the closure will make it harder for employers and rank-and-file workers to gain access to safety advice.
The government has confirmed that “unnecessary” proactive inspections of low risk premises such as offices and shops are to be cut by a third in a bid to “restore common sense ”to Britain’s health and safety system.
The changes are set out in new guidance for local authorities produced by HSE and the Local Government Group. They were first announced earlier this year as part of the government’s new health and safety strategy, Good health and safety, good for everyone.
Under the plans, local authority (LA) safety inspectors will in future concentrate their inspections on higher risk companies in a bid to reduce the number of proactive LA-led safety inspections of well-run premises by 65,000 a year – from around 195,000 to 130,000.
The guidance states that LA-enforced firms with good safety records should not face routine inspections by environmental health officers. Instead, councils will be required to put greater emphasis on reactive work – dealing with complaints and investigating incidents – and providing advice and support to businesses on managing workplace risks.
However, the retail union Usdaw said that plans to cut proactive inspections in “low risk” LA-enforced workplaces were “seriously flawed” and will mean “many employers will think they don’t need to bother” with safety. It added that the new “risk rating” system means that work-related health problems are not being considered in the enforcement approach.