Workplace Fatality Figures at Five-Year High after Disasters; GLEISION AND CHEVRON BLAST AMONG LIST OF ACCIDENTS

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Byline: CLAIRE MILLER

THE Gleision Colliery disaster and Chevron oil refinery blast have pushed workplace death rates in Wales to their highest level since 2006-07.

Both high-profile incidents accounted for the loss of eight lives between them.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said 18 people received fatal injuries in workplace incidents in Wales in 2011-12. The number has averaged around 11 for the preceding five years.

Speaking generally about the death rate figures, Judith Hackitt, HSE chairwoman, said: "These are lives cut short, not statistics - every single one of these deaths will have caused terrible grief and anguish for family and friends as well as workmates and colleagues.

"This is the real tragedy of health and safety failures - lives cut short and loved ones lost.

"We want employers to focus on the real risks that continue to cause death and serious injury. HSE is working very hard to make it easier for people to understand what they need to do and to focus on the real priorities. Protecting people from death and serious injury at work should be at the heart of what we all do."

The increased number of deaths saw the rate of fatal incidents rise to 1.4 per 100,000, up from 0.8 in 2010-11.

The HSE said that, as the number of fatalities in some regions is relatively small, a small rise can lead to a considerable variation in the death rate.

Roger Bibbings, RoSPA's occupational safety adviser, said: "It is disappointing that workplace accident deaths have not fallen further.

"Work-related deaths shatter families and they also have massive consequences for businesses, communities and society as a whole.

"It must also be remembered that workplace accidents represent just a small part of the overall burden of work-related death.

"Work-related road accidents, for example, are not included in the HSE figures and are estimated to be much higher in number than accidents in fixed workplaces.

"There is also the largely unseen burden of harm due to work-related health damage. For example, the results of the work which Lesley Rushton and her team at Imperial College London have done for the HSE on occupational cancer mortality projections shows a massive and continuing epidemic. …