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Health and safety leadership in the spotlight, says RoSPA

An increase in the number of work-related deaths announced today has brought home the need for effective leadership of health and safety management, says the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

Provisional fatal injury figures for 2006/07 were released just hours before the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act received Royal Assent. The new law also serves to remind directors and senior managers of their responsibility to take health and safety seriously.

The figures, released by the Health and Safety Commission, show that 241 workers were fatally injured in 2006/07, with the fatal injury rate being 0.80 per 100,000 workers. In 2005/06, 217 workers were fatally injured, corresponding to a rate of 0.72 per 100,000 workers.

Of particular concern was the marked increase in the number of deaths in the construction industry, which account for 31 per cent of all fatal injuries to workers. There were 77 fatal injuries among construction workers (3.7 per 100,000 workers) in 2006/07, up from 60 (3.0 per 100,000 workers) during the previous year.

Roger Bibbings, RoSPA Occupational Safety Adviser, said: ” The latest fatal injury figures are disappointing and remind us all that we must not become complacent. Effective management of health and safety must be a key business goal in every organisation. And it must be led from the top with clear reporting on performance to all stakeholders.

“There has been a growing focus on the health and safety responsibilities of directors and senior managers in all organisations, particularly in the decade it has taken to secure the introduction of the new offence of corporate manslaughter.

“The new Act, which will only be used when standards have fallen far below what might have been reasonably expected, makes clear that the full weight of criminal law will be brought to bear on organisations of all sizes that cause death by behaving recklessly. And, although it will target organisations and not individual directors or senior managers, investigations will lead to the behaviour of individuals coming under much greater scrutiny than before.

“But it is important to offer a word of reassurance – organisations that can show they have taken all reasonable steps to manage risks, and have effective health and safety management systems in place, have nothing to fear from the new law.”

RoSPA is running two Directors' Responsibilities Conferences over the coming months, in Glasgow on September 26 and London on November 26. The events offer the opportunity for directors, senior managers and health and safety professionals to explore recent developments and key issues. Call 0870 777 2120, email events@rospa.com or visit www.rospa.com/events/ for more details.

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