Fatal mistakes cost nine lives | 07 September 09
NORTH businesses are being reminded to put safety first after figures showing that fatal workplace accidents rose by more than 20% in the region last year.
Statistics from the Health and Safety Executive show that nine employees were killed at work in the North-East in 2008/09, compared with seven in the previous year.
The HSE says that many workplace fatalities can be easily prevented and have called on companies to take more ‘simple and sensible precautions’.
Health and safety experts from law firm Ward Hadaway say the figures bring home how important it is for businesses to take proper precautions when planning their operations.
James Thompson, partner in the firm’s health and safety team, said: “These statistics show how vital taking a thorough and professional approach to health and safety matters is.
“However, it is difficult for mere figures to bring home the devastating effect such fatal incidents have on the families and friends of those who have lost their lives in workplace accidents.
“This is why it is incumbent on businesses to make sure they take health and safety seriously because lives really can be at stake.
“Taking straightforward steps and putting in place sensible precautions do not need to cost the earth and can literally mean the difference between life and death.”
The nine deaths in the North-East in 2008/09 contributed to a total of 180 people killed in workplace accidents across Britain.
While this is the lowest number of workplace fatalities since records began, the Health and Safety Executive has emphasised that it remains too high and has pledged to work to reduce the numbers further.
Stiffer penalties were introduced earlier this year to act as a deterrent to companies tempted to cut corners on safety during the downturn.
In January, the introduction of the Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008 meant individuals found guilty of a wide range of health and safety related offences can be handed a jail term of up to 12 months by magistrates or up to two years by the Crown Court in addition to the existing sentencing powers available to the courts.
The maximum fine which magistrates can impose on companies for breaching health and safety laws also quadrupled from £5,000 to £20,000.
James Thompson said: “As well as the obvious desire to keep workers as safe as possible, these enhanced penalties mean companies have additional reasons to ensure their health and safety procedures are fully up to date.
“Added to the new law on corporate manslaughter, the consequences of a major incident could be catastrophic for business owners as well as the workers involved.”
* Find out more about our health and safety services.