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Alarm at rise in work deaths

PUBLISHED: 11:05 26 October 2001 | UPDATED: 10:45 03 March 2010

FATAL accidents in the workplace in the East of England rose sharply last year latest figures reveal - but most of the deaths could have been prevented according to health and safety bosses.

FATAL accidents in the workplace in the East of England rose sharply last year latest figures reveal – but most of the deaths could have been prevented according to health and safety bosses.

There were 22 workplace fatalities in the region last year, compared to 16 in the previous year, the first increase in several years.

Bosses at the Health and Safety Commission (HSC), which compiled the statistics for 2000/01, have expressed their concern at the rise. There were three workplace deaths in Suffolk, plus 282 major injuries, and six fatalities in Essex, with 519 other major injuries at work.

HSC chairman Bill Callaghan said: "We are greatly concerned by the increase in fatalities in 2000/01 – which goes against the downward trend of recent years – and are taking firm action to encourage improvement.

"The sad fact is that nearly all of these death were preventable and each is a tragedy for the victims, their families and friends.

"I would like to express my sympathies to all those who have suffered such a deep and personal loss.

"But sympathy is not enough. All employers must look after their employees' health and safety properly, as well as that of members of the public affected by their workplace activities."

Construction, which accounted for over a third of the national total of workplace fatalities, continues to be a particular cause for concern, but the manufacturing industry has also seen an increase in deaths.

The report also revealed the growing number of health problems associated with the workplace.

Mr Callaghan said: "Our research indicates that stress and musculo-skeletal disorders, which cover everything from bad backs to RSI, are an increasingly significant feature of the modern working world. Again we have targeted these as priority programmes over the next three years – and progress in both is vital."

Health and safety bosses have already produced guidance on tackling work-related stress in large organisations and will shortly be publishing help for small employers.

Mr Callaghan said: "All organisations need to create a better working environment and invest in protecting their workers from occupational harm."

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