Alarm at huge rise in deaths at work

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The Independent Online

The Government came under fresh pressure to introduce tough laws on corporate manslaughter after it was revealed that the number of people killed at work had leapt by more than a third last year.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) declared yesterday that employers were primarily responsible for the death toll, which reached 295 in the year to March, compared with 220 in the previous 12 months. Much concern centres on the increasingly dangerous construction industry where 106 workers were killed – the highest total for 10 years – up from 81 in 1999-2000.

And while the number injured at work declined marginally, the HSE warned that a growing number of incidents went unreported. Only four per cent of accidents to the self-employed were registered.

John Monks, the TUC general secretary, said employers needed to take responsibility for the "alarming" rise in the toll of deaths at work. "The need for a new Health and Safety Act to revitalise health and safety, with more inspectors and a new law against corporate killing couldn't be starker."

Mr Monks said the figures should wipe away any trace of "complacency" in boardrooms.

Jack Dromey, national official of the Transport & General Workers Union, denounced the figures as a "national disgrace''. He said: "It is quite disgraceful that since 1974 over 3,000 building workers have been killed, yet no company director has spent one night in prison as a result.''

He demanded that the Government introduce far tougher manslaughter laws to make it easier to bring negligent company directors to book.