In the last year, there has been a 70 per cent increase in the number of workplace fatalities across Scotland, the latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reveal.
Jumping from 17 to 29 work-related deaths in one year, the data found the majority of Scotland’s fatal workplace accidents occurred in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector, which went from three deaths in 2017/18 to 13 in the last year.
In 2018/19, there was a total of 147 workers killed at work in the UK; an increase of six fatalities on the previous year (141), but 32 less than a decade ago (179). Similar to Scotland, the agriculture sector has also been deemed the deadliest industry across the UK, accounting for one-fifth (32) of all UK workplace fatalities that took place between April 2018 and March 2019.
The construction sector closely followed, with 30 fatal injuries occurring in the industry during the same period. Despite this, it is the lowest number recorded in the construction sector on record (with an annual average for 2014/15-2018/19 of 36 deaths).
There were 26 fatalities in the manufacturing sector in the last year – five more deaths than the UK’s annual average.
40 UK deaths caused by falling from a height at work
The report also categorised fatal workplace injuries by type of accident. The most common cause for work-related deaths in the UK was falling from a height (40 deaths); five more than in 2017/18 and four more than the annual average. This was followed by being struck by a moving vehicle (30), struck by a moving object (16), and contact with moving machinery (14).
The majority of those who were fatally injured were male workers, accounting for 95 per cent of all worker fatalities. Of the 147 deaths, 107 happened to workers between the ages of 16-59, while a quarter (37) were aged 60 and over.
Scotland’s worrying workplace death statistics have given fresh impetus to MSP Claire Baker’s Culpable Homicide (Scotland) Bill. The legislation, which was proposed November of last year, would create two kinds of statutory culpable homicide – where death is caused ‘recklessly’ or by ‘gross negligence’ of employers, businesses, and corporations – and aims to give the families of those killed greater legal powers.
In response to the proposed bill, charity Scottish Hazards commented:
“We believe the proposals will provide greater clarity in the application of culpable homicide legislation [and] lead to a significant change in the way all employing organisations conduct operations in Scotland.”
Claire Baker concluded the bill “would provide a greater focus on health and safety in organisations, supporting a reduction in fatalities, and changing the culture in Scotland for the better.”
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