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  • 7 January 2014
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Is improving health and safety your new year’s resolution for 2014?

As we begin a new year, many a plan is made, large numbers of promises are given, and countless resolutions are prepared. In normal instances, people vow to exercise more, keep in touch with distant relatives and friends on a regular basis, and cut out the alcohol and fast food.

In my own experiences, I have seen that some resolutions last a very short period and people quickly resort back to their old ways. However, there are some resolutions that need to be adhered to at all costs.

In the last few days, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has urged businesses to focus on their legal responsibility to ensure lives are not put at risk and therefore make the safety of workers their top priority for the year ahead.

Its appeal comes as new provisional figures reveal that the number of deaths across the UK has fallen year on year, with 148 people killed at work, compared to 171 during 2011-12. The figures also show that while more than 20,600 workers suffered a major injury in 2012-13, it does in fact represent a 10.8% fall on the previous year.

Despite the figures showing signs of improvement, it is crucial that managers and plant owners continue to concentrate on the health and safety of their workers to ensure that we once again see a substantial drop in the number of workplace deaths and injuries that occur in 2014.

Commenting, a HSE spokesperson, said:

“Whilst the number of workplace deaths and major injuries has decreased nationally, these statistics highlight why we still need good health and safety in workplaces.

“I therefore urge employers to spend their time tackling the real dangers that workers face and stop worrying about trivial matters or pointless paperwork.

“It’s important to remember that while we still have one of the lowest rates of workplace deaths in Europe, one death is still one too many. I would urge businesses to focus on good management of risk to help to further cut the number of deaths and injuries in 2014.”

Breaking the figures down further, it was revealed that the North East, South West, North West, West Midlands and the East of England all saw a decrease in the number of workplace deaths, while London, Scotland, and Yorkshire and Humber saw an increase in the number of fatalities. 

It also stated that five in every million workers were killed while at work between April 2012 and March 2013, with high-risk industries such as construction accountable for 39 deaths last year.

Furthermore, agriculture had 29 deaths, while manufacturing was responsible for 20 and waste and recycling had ten. According to the HSE, these figures make up over two-thirds of all workplace deaths in Great Britain during 2012/13.

It is also important to note that these provisional figures will be finalised in October 2014 following any necessary adjustments that might arise from investigations, in which new facts may emerge about whether the accident was work-related.

Information on tackling health and safety dangers in workplaces is available on HSE’s website at hse.gov.uk.

Over the Christmas period, the HSE also published a new approved code of practice (ACOP) on asbestos to help businesses understand how to work safely with asbestos.

It revealed that the Approved Codes of Practice (ACOPs) L127 (The management of asbestos in non-domestic premises) and L143 (Work with materials containing asbestos) have been consolidated into one single revised ACOP – L143 Managing and working with asbestos.

L143 has been revised to make it easier for businesses and employers to understand and meet their legal obligations. It also reflects the changes introduced in The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012) on the notification of non-licensed work with asbestos, and consequent arrangements for employee medical examinations and record keeping.

Highlighting the benefits of the change, Kären Clayton, Director of HSE’s Long Latency Health Risks Division, said:

“The two ACOPs have been updated and brought together to help employers find the information they need quickly and easily and understand how to protect their workers from dangers of working with asbestos.

“The revised ACOP also provides better clarity on identifying  dutyholders for non-domestic premises and the things they must do to comply with the ‘duty to manage’ asbestos.”

HSE stated that ACOPs L127 and L143 were among several identified for: review and revision; consolidation; or withdrawal, following a recommendation made by Professor Ragnar Löfstedt in his report ‘Reclaiming Health and Safety for All’, and that the changes follow public consultation and HSE Board and ministerial approval.

The revised ACOP is available on the HSE website here.

The health and safety of workers is obviously extremely important, and as you can see from the news that has already hit the headlines just a week into the New Year, it is going to be high on the agenda for the HSE in 2014.

As a result, managers, and of course the workers themselves are going to be put under pressure to ensure that workplaces are safe places to reside and that injuries are kept to a minimum.

Whether you choose to give up on your personal New Year’s resolutions, make certain that the one resolution you stick to in 2014 is to do everything you can to ensure that you, your colleagues and employees stay safe in the workplace, whatever your role or position may be.