The Health & Safety Commission has said that it is still too early to judge whether the 17% rise in deaths in the workplace in 1996-97 was a freak occurrence or a permanent worsening of Britain’s employment safety record.
There was a sharp rise in deaths in the manufacturing industry, with provisional figures showing that fatalities rose from 42 to 57 last year – a 35% increase.
Frank Davies, HSC chairman, said: `We shall not know for some time whether this is a reversal of the previously downward trend in accidents’.
The HSC annual report released last week said that `although fatal accident rates are at an historically low level the early results of accidents in 1996-97 show that there is no room for complacency’.
The agriculture and construction sectors caused the greatest worry, said the HSC, although the Health & Safety Executive is already taking action in those sectors.
HSE inspectors have been performing `blitz’ inspections in the agricultural machinery industry with a focus on visiting manufacturers to improve the safety mechanisms on machines.
The HSC also said the number of HSE railway inspections rose from 1,722 to 2,253 in 1996-97.
`We continued to monitor the safety regime in the railway industry with particular attention to issues arising from the restructuring and privatisation of the industry,’ the HSC said.