Bill Callaghan, chair of the Health & Safety Commission has written to every leader and chief executive in the UK urging them to examine their performance as health and safety regulators.
The HELA National Picture 2001 report, which gives work-related injury and ill-health figures for businesses inspected by councils, shows the number of full-time equivalent council enforcement officers fell by eight percent - a drop for the third year running.
Visits to premises fell from 332,000 to 313,000 as a result, and the number of enforcement notices issued fell by six percent during the last year.
Provisional figures show the number of reported injuries fell by almost 7,000, but the number of deaths had increased from 32 to 44.
But councils seem to have improved their targeting of high risk premises, and inspectors' visiting rates have increased.