HSE releases annual workplace fatality figures for 2019/20
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has released its annual figures for the number of work-related fatalities in 2019/20, as well as the number of people known to have died from the asbestos-related cancer, mesothelioma, in 2018.
The provisional annual data for work-related fatal accidents revealed that 111 workers were fatally injured at work between April 2019 and March 2020 (a rate of 0.34 deaths per 100,000 workers), the lowest year on record.
This represents a fall of 38 deaths from the previous year, though it is likely that this fall was accentuated by the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on the economy in the final two months of the year.
In line with previous years’ fatal injury statistics, these figures do not include deaths from occupational disease. Covid-19 infection is therefore not part of these figures and will not feature in fatal injury statistics in subsequent years.
While there has been a long-term reduction in the number of annual fatalities (the number has almost halved in the last 20 years), aside from the current fall, the number has remained broadly level in recent years.
HSE Increase COVID-19 Spot Checks
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is increasing its spot checks on businesses that have reopened since the UK went into lockdown. Inspectors are visiting workplaces across a range of sectors following up any reports or concerns about safety in the workplace, including COVID-19, ensuring compliance after receiving numerous COVID related complaints.
Checks consist of a mixture of phone checks and site visits. Nearly 4000 spot checks have been undertaken. All but 41 of these were deemed compliant. The remaining 41 are currently subject to inspector visits and further investigation.
Focus on: On Tool Extraction Filter Classification
Regularly breathing dust created by construction and manufacturing processes can cause diseases like lung cancer, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD – which includes emphysema and other breathing difficulties) and silicosis.
Silica is the second biggest killer of construction workers after asbestos. Some of the most common construction jobs create high dust levels. These jobs often involve the use of power tools like cut-off saws, grinders, breakers and sanders.
There is a legal duty for employers to prevent or adequately control worker exposure from dust exposure. On-tool extraction is an effective control for this dust and will reduce the risk of ill health.
Types of extraction
The importance of using the correct type of dust extraction cannot be overstated, and it is vital that people understand the difference between the various classes.
There are three main classes of dust extraction on the UK market currently; L, M and H Class. The official wording of the differences are as follows:
L Class ≤ 1.0% Dusts with maximum allowable concentrations (WEL*) > 1 mg/m³
M Class < 0.1% Dusts with maximum allowable concentrations (WEL*) ≥ 0.1 mg/m³ H Class < 0.005% Dusts with maximum allowable concentrations (WEL*) < 0.1 mg/m³ L Class extractors are regarded as ‘entry-level’ (soft woods and solid surface material such as Corian). M Class being the next step up. (hard woods, board materials, concrete and brick dust). H Class extractors would generally be specified if you are working in environments with highly carcinogenic dusts such as asbestos, lead, carbon, tar, nickel, cobalt, copper and cadmium. There are many other features that may be available on the extractors such as ‘power take-off’ which allows you to plug your power tool directly into the vacuum extractor, making the unit automatically turn-on when the power tool is started. This removes the need to turn-on the two items separately. There is also a delayed shut-off; when the power tool is stopped the extractor continues to run for around five seconds longer to clear both the tool and hose of any remaining particles. Do not just rely on an extractor being supplied with a ‘HEPA’ filter! You must ensure that the correct type of extraction is provided for each operation. Seek help where required to ensure that you are providing the correct protection. Note: * WEL = Workplace Exposure Limit. * HEPA = High-Efficiency Particulate Air.