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There has been no increase in the number of fatal injuries to the total workforce - employees and the self-employed...
There has been no increase in the number of fatal injuries to the total workforce - employees and the self-employed combined - reported the Health and Safety Commission which published its annual report today.

The final figure is expected to remain at 272, the same number as last year, said HSC chairman Frank Davies.

There is an historic low in members of the public who died as a result of work activities - an expected final figure of 90 compared to 104 last year. Taking the two figures together we have a very encouraging picture.

The HSC expects the fatal accident rate for the total workforce to remain at 1.1 per 100,000 workers. The fatal accident rate for the self-employed is expected to fall substantially to 1.6 per 100,000 workers from 2.5 last year. The combined rate of fatal injuries and major ones - such as amputations or severe burns - for the workforce is expected to be at the lowest level for the last five years.

'However, we cannot be complacent as there will obviously be some year on year fluctuations,' said Mr Davies.

The small increase in the rate of fatal accidents to employees from 0.9 last year to 1.0 is a cause for concern, although it is of course considerably lower than in 1986/87 when the rate was 1.7 per 100,000 employees.

'The results on work-related ill-health hold few surprises. It is good to see that new cases of occupational deafness reported by the DSS continue to fall. But regrettably, as we predicted, cases of asbestos related diseases are still rising, because of exposure many years ago when conditions were less strictly controlled than now. The rates in younger people, who have had less exposure to asbestos, are falling, but we are still very concerned about the potential exposure of contractors and others to asbestos already in buildings'.

Jenny Bacon, director general of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), said: 'We have been looking at the way HSE enforces health and safety to ensure that what we do is appropriate to the changes there have been in the nature of employment and structure of industry, particularly with the growth of small firms. We are on target with our plans to simplify and modernise legislation and we are responding to increased demands for advice and guidance from the public, employers and employees. Last year we dealt with around 580,000 enquiries and made 31,000 investigations.

'We are targeting our efforts at areas of high risk and are spending more time with companies, explaining their legal duties and giving professional advice. On average planned inspections took 11% longer last year than in the previous year. We are using a greater variety of methods to make contact with businesses including the use of mailshots, seminars and publicity campaigns. This approach is bearing fruit and we know that people appreciate the assistance they get from inspectors.

'Our aim is consistency of enforcement and we are achieving this through training and statutory guidance for HSE and local authority inspectors. HSC policy is to ensure that enforcement is proportionate, consistent, transparent and targeted.'

Mr Davies said: 'We have continued to make major efforts to get health and safety messages to small firms. This is a top priority for us, as some 3.5m businesses in the UK now employ fewer than 50 people and small firms account for around 45% of private sector employment. No organisation has done more to find out what small firms really want and we reach them directly whenever we can. In the new year we will be announcing our strategy for improving health and safety in small firms.'

The annual report and statistics has information about accidents and trends in construction, agriculture, extractive and utility supply, manufacturing and service industries. HSE's work during the year on inspection and enforcement initiatives, legislation, guidance and research is explained and details are given of how HSE spent money allocated by the government.

Copies of 'Health and Safety Commission Annual Report 1995/96', ISBN 0-7176-1219-8, price £16, and 'Health and Safety Statistics 1995/96', ISBN 0-7176-1150-7, price £13.50, are available from HSE Books, PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk, CO10 6FS, tel: 01787-881165 or fax: 01787-313995).

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