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As the industry celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Health and Safety at Work Act, Dominic Slingsby, Managing Director of Slingsby, examines the UK’s safety record over the last four decades.

Health and safety gets a lot of bad press but during the 40th anniversary year of the Health and Safety at Work Act, figures which reveal that the UK is now one of the safest countries to work in the world must be applauded.

The data from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) shows that in 1974 more than 650 people lost their lives every year at work, compared to a record low of 133 today. The number of injuries occurring at work has also fallen significantly from 336,701 40 years ago, to 78,222 now.

However, there is still work to do because these figures also reveal that thousands of unnecessary accidents and deaths are still occurring in workplaces.


When the Health and Safety at Work Act was introduced, it laid the foundations for the HSE to be established, and together they have transformed how all workplaces operate across every industry. Health and safety is now a key consideration for all employees and as a result, Britain rightfully enjoys one of the best safety records in the world.

In the scheme of things, 40 years is a relatively short space of time to


achieve such impressive results and to change the mindset of so many employers so that they manage risk in a proportionate and practical way.

It is also encouraging that there are no signs of this progress slowing down. HSE now brings more cases to court than ever before and more stringent punishments, including fines and prison sentences, are being dished out to those who ignore the law and the wellbeing of their employees and visitors.

The simple fact remains, though, that there are still far too many workplace accidents occurring every year. The majority of work related accidents are avoidable and often involve the same hazards time and time again – from workplace transport and falls from height, to manual handling, health risks from hazardous materials and workplace stress, as well as slips, trips and falls.

In our experience, most workers can be protected from these hazards by introducing simple safety measures, investing in the right type of equipment and carrying out regular risk assessments.

In most cases, health and safety is about common sense and it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. The best way to reduce accidents in the workplace is to be proactive with prevention and stick to the basics.

All businesses with five or more employees need an up-to-date written health and safety policy containing reports that outline safe working methods and records of health and safety training for employees in high-risk jobs. It’s also important to

keep details about risk assessments and equipment inspections that are required by law. This might include lifting equipment, fire extinguishers and electrical appliances.

Employers should also display a valid employers’ liability insurance certificate and an up-to-date health and safety poster and have clear procedures in place for first aid and reporting accidents.


As the UK recovers from the recession, now is a critical time for health and safety as many high-risk sectors, such as construction and manufacturing, return to growth. There are already figures emerging that show site-related deaths are increasing in London, where the upturn in construction activity is strongest.

Again though, even in high-risk industries, accidents are usually preventable simply by following the basics, creating good risk assessments, paying attention to detail and investing in the right equipment. Ultimately, any death at work is a death too many and until this figure hits zero, there will always be more that can be done to improve workplace safety.

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