Neal Stone, Director of Policy and Communications, British Safety Council

HSE’s recently published statistics show strong signs of improvement in Great Britain’s workplace health and safety performance in 2010/11. Both the incidence and number of major and reportable workplace injuries fell significantly in 2010/11.

Both the injury rates for major injuries and injuries over three days have fallen. Days lost due to both work-related ill health and workplace injury have fallen significantly too. The reduction in days lost due to work-related illness and workplace injury from 28.4m to 26.4m is another notable improvement bringing with it considerable health, social and economic benefits.

Ill health accounts for 45% of the health and safety incidents, 84% of the related sickness absence and over 99% of the work-related deaths each year. An estimated 10.8 million and 7.4 million days were lost due to stress and musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) in 2010/11. The statistics reveal that the incident rate of stress is higher among working women than men. The highest rates of MSD are among workers aged over 45 years.

However it was matter of deep concern that workplace fatalities rose to 171 in 2010/11from 147 in 2009/10. The increase in the number of fatal injuries is a stark reminder that poorly managed health and safety can have devastating consequences for the families, friends and work colleagues. All but a very small number of the workplace injuries and work-related ill health occurrences recorded last year, were, arguably, entirely avoidable.

But workplace fatal injuries are only part of the enormity of work-related deaths. It is estimated that another 600 people die a year in work-related road traffic deaths. HSE estimates that a further 12,000 people are dying each year from work-related diseases, including mesothelioma, the legacy of asbestos and other hazardous substances.