The serious risks to health faced by many workers in Scotland have been highlighted by recent Health and Safety Executive (HSE) figures showing that 22 workers were killed while at work in 2012/13. This figure represents an alarming rise over the 19 deaths that took place over the previous year.
A further 1,914 workers sustained a major injury in 2012/13, down on the 2,215 major injuries that occurred during the previous year.
HSE has published these figures as part of a fresh appeal that calls on employers to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their workforce is a top priority for 2014 and to not put lives at risk.
Across Great Britain as a whole there has actually been a fall in the number of deaths of work - from 171 in 2011/12 to 148 in 2012/13.
However, certain sectors continue to carry much higher risks for employees than others. HSE figures show that the highest risk industries include:
Together these sectors accounted for more than two-thirds of all workplace deaths in Great Britain during 2012/13.
“The families of those workers in Scotland who lost their lives last year had to face Christmas without them and hundreds of other workers have had their lives changed forever by a major injury,” commented Alistair McNab, HSE Head of Operations for Scotland.
“Whilst the number of workplace deaths and major injuries has decreased nationally, they have increased across Scotland, and it serves as a stark reminder of why we need good health and safety in workplaces,” he said. “I therefore urge employers to spend their time tackling the real dangers that workers face and stop worrying about trivial matters or pointless paperwork.”
The dangers of working in construction, the sector that accounted for the most fatal accidents last year, are clearly demonstrated in a recent Scottish case reported by the HSE.
The case concerned a worker who was subjected to the traumatic and life-changing experience of a leg amputation after it was crushed during the construction of Griffin Wind Farm in Perth and Kinross.
The man was operating a tractor and had stopped to unload the heavy water bowser that he had been pulling. He was unable to use the parking brake on the tractor as it had previously been disabled. He used the handbrake instead, but this was insufficient to prevent the tractor being dragged back by the weight of the bowser, crushing the worker’s left leg between the tractor and the bucket of a loading shovel.
The HSE investigation found failings on the part of the company to properly risk assess the work and to ensure that the machinery was appropriate for the work.
The company was fined £32,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
In a separate case, this time from England, a worker was severely injured after falling through a garage roof that he was in the process of repairing.
He received injuries to his brain and was left partially deaf as a result of the fall. He also suffered a fractured shoulder and lost his peripheral vision.
The HSE identified that no safety equipment to prevent a fall had been provided, such as harnesses or scaffolding. The employer had also failed to carry out a risk assessment and had not provided adequate supervision.
“Work at height is inherently fraught with risk, and falls remain the single biggest cause of deaths and serious injury in the construction industry,” explained HSE inspector Ian Shearring. “The worker in this case suffered life-changing injuries, but it could easily have resulted in death. It is also fortunate that a colleague who was on the roof with him was not injured.”
“This incident could have been prevented had the defendant put in place effective arrangements to ensure the risks were managed and workers were protected,” he added.
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