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Construction non-fatal site injuries rise

Construction was the only major UK industry in which the number of non-fatal injuries rose last year.

According to the Health and Safety Executive’s latest figures there were a total of 11,120 incidents in 2007/08, up from 10,849 the year before.

The preliminary results included 2,821 non-fatal injuries in the last three months of the recording year, which ended in April. The final quarter result was up 5.7 per cent on the third quarter level of 2,670.

Across the HSE’s major industries - which include manufacturing, hospitality, transport and public services - non-fatal injuries were down an average of five per cent over the year.

But the HSE’s construction division said the rise coincided with a general increase in building activity.

The rate of incidents per 100,000 was up to 227.5 in the fourth quarter from 213.8 in the third. But the result was a fall from the rate of 239 recorded in the same quarter the year prior.

HSE chief inspector for construction Stephen Williams said: “Any rise in the number of major injuries in the construction industry has to be seen against the background of continued expansion of the industry, both in terms of output and the size of the workforce.

“The increase in the size of the workforce is significant when the accident rates are worked out. Over the last few years this has more than cancelled out any small increases in the numbers of accidents reported, leading to lower accident rates overall.”

The figures follow the release of the HSE’s fatal statistics for last year.

Last month it revealed that 72 construction workers had been killed on site in 2007/08. This was down from a revised figure of 79 in 2006/07.

Mr Williams said the incident results would likely be revised before the HSE’s final annual accident report, which will be released in October.

The HSE’s Injury breakdown

MAJOR INJURIES

2007/08

Q 4 938
Q 3 899
Q 2 982
Q 1 903

Total 3,722

2006/07

Total 3,717

ALL NON-FATAL

2007/08

Q 4 2,821
Q 3 2,670
Q 2 2,890
Q 1 2,739

Total 11,120

2006/07

Total 10,849

Analysis: The true figure may be much higher

By Alan Ritchie

The latest HSE figures make grim reading. Especially as the majority of workers fail to report such accidents.

The real accident rates are far higher - unsurprisingly given the growing casualisation of our industry.

Workers employed through gangmasters or falsely self-employed are unlikely to report accidents through fear of being be laid off.

And many workers will think: “What is the point of reporting an accident when the HSE is under-resourced and there is unlikely to be an investigation.”

I fear these figures are a precursor to a worsening situation in construction. Many employers pay only lip service to health and safety at the best of times. In the present climate, some employers will cut funding.

Until employers are forced by the threat of prosecution into making sites safe, accidents are unlikely to fall.

Alan Ritchie is general secretary of construction union UCATT

To download the full set of the HSE figures click on the resource box on the right hand side of the page