New figures published by the HSE show that the number of people injured and made unwell at work has continued to fall but there has been an increase in the number of fatalities at work.

The statistics show that in Britain between April 2010 and March 2011:

* 24,726 major injuries were reported, such as amputations, fractures and burns, to employees – a rate of 99 injuries per 100,000 workers – compared with 26,268 in 2009/10.
* 90,653 other injuries serious enough to keep people off work for four or more days were reported – a rate of 363.1 injuries per 100,000 workers – down from 96,427 the previous year.
* An estimated 1.2 million people said they were suffering from an illness caused or made worse by their work, down from 1.3 million in 2009/10. Of these, 500,000 were new illnesses occurring in-year.
* 171 workers were fatally injured – up from 147 the previous year.

The construction (173.2 major injuries per 100,000 employees) and agricultural (221.9 major injuries per 100,000 employees) industries continue to report the highest levels of work-related injuries, with disproportionately high numbers of incidents.

Judith Hackitt, HSE’s Chair, said: “The fall in the number of people being injured by work is of course to be welcomed but we did also see an increase in the number of fatalities during the year. Britain can be proud that it has one of the best health and safety records in Europe but as the increase in the number of fatalities makes clear we can never let up in our commitment to addressing the serious risks which continue to cause death and injury in workplaces.

“HSE will continue to work with employers, employees and other organisations to maintain and, where necessary improve, health and safety standards. We all have a responsibility to make sure serious workplace risks are sensibly managed.”

Maria Anderson, health and safety consultant at Workplace Law, said: “The report confirms that many employers still believe that health and safety is only about legal compliance, and do not understand that at the end good health and safety management is about protecting real people that are exposed to real risks, and positively it just makes good businesses sense.

“We could try to understand why fatalities are on the rise: do companies believe that health and safety is a commodity that can be spared during economic uncertainty?

“With news that the HSE is reducing resources with fewer inspections and prosecutions, companies may believe that they can overlook health and safety, or maybe cutting costs means cutting competency – are companies hiring the wrong people just to cut costs? The explanations are many, but the final result the same: people still die by going on with their normal working routines.

“Workplace Law is still committed to helping our clients to obtain excellence. We believe that health and safety deserves high priority on the business agenda and we will continue to support our clients in improving efficiency by improving health and safety and protecting their people.”