Week Commencing 08/07/2024 – In The News

Rise in workplace deaths shows ‘lessons aren’t being learned’

The global body for health and safety professionals says “lessons aren’t being learned” after it was revealed one worker is killed every week in the UK construction industry.

New figures published show that 51 deaths occurred in construction in 2023-24, an increase of four from the previous year. This means that the industry accounted for more than a third of the 138 deaths across all UK workplaces.

While there were more deaths in construction than other industries, the highest proportion of deaths occurred in agriculture, forestry and fishing, with 7.51 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared with 2.43 in construction.

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) says the figures, published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), are of “huge concern” and is calling for a joint effort to reduce the number of workplace deaths, with the annual number remaining broadly similar for over a decade.

Learn more about the new statistics on the HSM website.

MoD to compensate thousands of veterans over hearing loss

Thousands more ex-servicemen and women will receive compensation for hearing loss suffered during training or combat, the BBC has learned.

Military personnel are repeatedly exposed to loud noises, such as gunfire and bombing, during their careers.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has opposed many claims made by veterans experiencing hearing loss, arguing other sources of noise were to blame, individuals should have worn protection or their claims were too late.

Now it has accepted exposure to noise in the military has been a cause of hearing loss and that people discharged after 1987 could be eligible for compensation.

Read more on the BBC website.

Health and safety can be quick win for new Government

The UK General Election results are in and, with Sir Keir Starmer a clear winner in the race for Number 10, IOSH’s Head of Policy and Public Affairs Ruth Wilkinson says it’s time for a greater focus on protecting people at work.

In stark contrast to when his predecessor announced the beginning of the General Election campaign, the skies cleared as the UK’s new Prime Minister gave his first speech in the role.

And as I watched Sir Keir Starmer address the waiting media and the nation from outside Number 10 Downing Street, I couldn’t help but wonder if those clearer skies were a sign of things to come.

He spoke about the “urgent work” his Government must do and alluded to creating better support for workers. Of course, people across the UK undertake varied jobs which can expose them to many different hazards and risks. So, we must have a focus on preventing harm and protecting workers and their rights.

Sir Keir has spoken widely about his and the Labour Party’s plan for change, highlighting six “first steps”, which include making the economy more stable and cutting waiting times for NHS treatment.

There are significant opportunities to make a real difference to people and their working lives. Focusing on their health, safety and wellbeing can not only protect them but increase their motivation and performance, thereby contributing to the economy and helping to support the NHS along the way.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has revealed that 138 people were killed at work in 2023-24. This figure is dwarfed by the number injured in workplace accidents (561,000 in 2022-23) and the number who are suffering from work-related ill health (1.8 million in 2022-23). On top of this, there is the major issue of mental ill health which needs to be tackled, with workplaces playing a major role in this.

Visit the IOSH website to read more.

Military explosives manufacturer fined £670k after worker dies in MTV blast

A firm that manufactures an explosive substance for the military has been prosecuted after one of its employees was fatally injured in an explosion at its factory near Salisbury, Wiltshire. A second employee sustained serious burns.

The Salisbury Journal  reports the two workers had recently finished producing a third magnesium, Teflon and Viton (MTV) composite batch in building 206 at the defendant’s premises in High Post, Wiltshire when the accident occurred on 10 August 2018.

Chemring Countermeasures Limited manufactures the explosive substance, which is used to ignite decoy flares that British and NATO military aircraft deploy when missiles are targeted at them.

According to the newspaper, deposits of up to 5kg of MTV had built up inside the PressoFiltro mixing bowl during this production process.

When Piotr Zukowski leaned his upper torso into the mixing bowl to replace the filter cloth, the metal-on-metal contact between his partly aluminium dustpan and the material ignited the solvent composition. The resulting blast killed the 29-year-old instantly.

The explosion also caused a pile of waste MTV stored in cleaning buckets in the building’s corridor to ignite and his colleague Jake West sustained significant burns from the ensuing fireball.

For more on the incident, visit the IOSH Magazine website.

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