Injured At Work – The Health And Safety Executive Is There To Protect You

35 years on – is the HSE still working?

The number of employees killed or injured at work is at its lowest level since the inception of the modern health and safety system, implemented 35 years ago this month. The Health and Safety at Work Act was introduced on the 1st October 1974. That year, 651 people died in work related accidents.

Last year, statistics from the HSE showed that 180 people died as a result of work based activity. Those numbers show that since the legislation was introduced, there has been a steady decline in the number of work-related deaths. But the HSE is still concerned that people are still dying and being seriously injured as a result of preventable accidents at work and is committed to maintaining a level of vigilance and enforcement to make sure that number continues to drop.

Although the number of reported non-fatal injuries has also dropped by 70% in the same time period, the HSE says that its mission is an ongoing challenge. Some people have argued that the figures do not reflect the decline of heavy industry in the UK – a large contributor to the number of deaths in earlier years – but the argument is that, no matter how much people may deride HSE legislation, it has had a considerable impact on the number of people injured or killed at work. The introduction of a law to protect workers’ lives and promote safe working practices has clearly helped to drive improvements across the board and ultimately, to save lives.

So the HSE is still working, and working hard to reduce the daily risk to employees in any workplace. The advent of ‘no win, no fee’ accident compensation claims has also done a great deal to drive the message home that employers are bound by a duty of care to their employees. If they fail in that duty of care then not only will they be held accountable by the HSE, but by the individual as well.

This has given workers (particularly in high-risk occupations) a degree of security in the event of an accident that could potentially affect their ability to do their job for a considerable time after the event. But not only does it mean that victims are compensated for their injuries, but that emphasis is placed on the employer to implement changes that will prevent a recurrence of the same situation again. The 35 years worth of enforcement in work safety carried out by the HSE has moved us much further down the road to far better, safer and secure working conditions for everyone. But there are still weak spots that need addressing and it is these that the HSE is committed to tackling as an ongoing mission. The fact that the HSE is now much more willing to work alongside experts in compensation such as specialist solicitors and legal representatives sends out a clear message to employers that a slack or lazy approach to worker’s safety is totally unacceptable and will be met with the full force of the law. For once, the law is on the little people’s side, and the HSE encourages those affected to pursue compensation claims where there is clear evidence that an employer’s lax attitude is to blame for a preventable accident. Not only does it give the worker the financial support they need, but it also highlights changes that need to be implemented to prevent others suffering the same fate.

The HSE may be one of those organisations that everyone loves to moan about, but their role is vital in the ongoing battle to reduce the number of deaths and serious injury at work further. Just because the numbers are going down is no reason to relax vigilance in the workplace, and protect workers from suffering preventable injuries, no matter what the circumstances.

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